Despite a missed notification deadline by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, it appears the state’s voters will be asked to decide on Nov. 6 whether to eliminate the current constitutional limit on consecutive terms for county sheriffs.
We think their answer should be “no,” so that the current maximum of two consecutive terms remains in place.
The state’s constitution originally limited sheriffs to a single, four-year term. Then in 1973, voters authorized the change allowing sheriffs to hold office up to two consecutive terms.
After that, there were three attempts to remove term limits for the office altogether, but voters rejected each effort — in 1982, 1986 and 1994. Last year, the Legislature was persuaded to place once again a proposed constitutional amendment eliminating the two-term limit on the Nov. 6 ballot.
We don’t see the need for a change. The reasons for having the limits still exist.
Term limits are generally placed on offices that have substantial power and influence. In West Virginia, the governor is limited to two terms, and there’s little question that a governor holds considerable power and influence by the very nature of the office. The same can be said of mayors in the strong-mayor form of government.
At the local level, sheriffs also fall into this category. Unlike their counterparts in most other states, sheriffs in West Virginia have dual roles. One is as the top law enforcement official of the county. The other primary function is as the county’s tax collector. While no one is suggesting that any of the state’s current sheriffs have engaged in dubious practices, the potential for corruption exists when such power is concentrated in the hands of one person.
The proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot would make more sense if there was a groundswell of calls from the public for ending the term limits. But that’s not the case. Those supporting the amendment are primarily groups representing the sheriffs, such as the West Virginia Sheriffs Association. How can their interest in ending the term limit be interpreted other than they want to see sheriffs maintain their power for longer periods of time? …
— Distributed by The Associated Press