The U.S. Supreme Court dealt term-limits backers another blow Monday, letting stand a ruling that blocked Arkansas efforts to brand lawmakers who oppose the measure.
Idaho voters approved a similar initiative in November, while Washington voters rejected the idea.
The Idaho and Arkansas laws would place negative notations on the ballot beside the names of elected officials who oppose term-limit amendments.
The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s initiative, saying constitutional amendments must originate in Congress or state legislatures, not as ballot questions.
The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a term-limits proponent’s appeal.
The decision was seen as good news by term-limits opponents in states such as Maine, where similar initiatives are awaiting court challenges.
David Soley, who represents the Maine League of Women Voters, said the Supreme Court gave “tacit recognition” that the Arkansas court was correct.
But Idaho term-limits activists hesitated to draw many conclusions from Monday’s decision.
The justices simply may be waiting for more lower courts to rule on the issue, they said.
“What that means is that in Arkansas, it was rejected,” said term-limits proponent Don Morgan of Post Falls. “It doesn’t mean any more than that.”
The Idaho initiative faces its first challenge next month before the state Supreme Court.
Even if it is shot down, the state’s term-limits movement is far from over, Morgan said.
“Idaho voters have voted for this, and if we have to come back with it again, we will,” Morgan said. “It’s clearly what the voters want.”
Maine Attorney General Andrew Ketterer, who is defending his state’s law in court, said Monday’s one-line decision did not set any precedent. The Maine term-limits law remains in effect until his case is heard.
The term-limits movement seized upon “scarlet letter” initiatives after a landmark 1995 Supreme Court ruling.
That decision declared term limits for members of Congress could be established only by amending the Constitution.
Congress failed to pass such an amendment in 1995, and the measure failed again in the House this month.
Term limit supporters say they believe they can pressure Congress to pass a constitutional amendment if they brand reluctant lawmakers with phrases like “Disregarded voter instruction on term limits” next to their names on the ballot.
Nine states passed “scarlet letter” initiatives last year, but the movement lost votes in the House on a constitutional amendment two weeks ago.
Political professionals have said the movement lost energy in recent years, particularly after Republicans gained a majority in Congress for the first time in four decades.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff and wire reports Staff writer Craig Welch contributed to this report.
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