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Are local elected officials subject to term limits in North Carolina?

Joe Johnson

Nope, not in North Carolina.

The state constitution sets out all the qualifications for holding office at any government level in the state. It trumps all other rules so unless the constitution is amended, term limits are off limits.

There was a court case settled by the N.C. Supreme Court in 1992 called Moore v. Knightdale Board of Education. In that decision, the court struck down a law requiring an office holder to resign that position before that person could file for another office.

In its opinion, the court said the imposition of additional qualifications that go beyond what are spelled out in the constitution are now allowed. It could be inferred from that decision that term limits also would fall into this territory.

Anyone who wanted to bring term limits to North Carolina would have to get the legislature to approve a bill on that topic and it would have to pass the state House and Senate by a three-fifths majority. At that point, it would have to be approved by a vote of the people during an election. Needless to say, the effort would be quite substantial.

There have been bills filed to subject members of the General Assembly to term limits but they have not gotten much traction. Nothing concerning lower offices has been attempted, at least in the 15 years I’ve been covering the legislature.

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