CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Supreme Court has sided with Secretary of State Max Maxfield in ruling that term limits for him and most other statewide elected officials are unconstitutional.
Friday’s ruling covers the offices of secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. The court didn’t rule on the question of whether term limits for the office of governor are constitutional.
“I’m really pleased with the outcome,” Maxfield said Friday. “I think that as chief election officer for the state, we had concern for my office, we had concern that we had what we saw as an unconstitutional provision in our election code.”
Maxfield, who’s in his second term as secretary of state, filed the legal challenge to the term limits law in his individual capacity in 2011.
Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips’ office had defended the term limits law in court. An attempt to reach him for comment wasn’t immediately successful on Friday.
Friday’s decision follows a 2004 Wyoming Supreme Court decision that overturned term limits for state legislators.
Voters approved term limits by initiative in 1992. The court’s ruling on Friday states that qualifications for state offices are spelled out in the Wyoming Constitution and requirements can only be changed by constitutional amendment, not state statute.
Maxfield said he believes having the issue resolved for his position and the other statewide governmental leaders is a plus for his office. “I think it just sends the message that if we’re going to change the constitution, that we have to follow the process.”
Maxfield had said before the ruling that he was bound by the term limits law not to say whether he would seek re-election and couldn’t campaign or raise money.
“This opens that avenue for me, obviously, to explore running for a third term,” Maxfield said, adding that he would wait to decide and will focus on goals he has for the next two years.
“At the same time, of course, we’re going to look at are we going to seek a third term?” Maxfield asked. “You don’t just jump in a month before the filing period and decide that you’re going to run on a statewide basis because it’s such a major undertaking. We’ll be talking to people and looking at the prospects of serving a third term, or retiring.”
Maxfield said he doesn’t expect the ruling will ultimately have much effect on Wyoming politics.
“People have chosen to elect or not elect veteran legislators,” he said.
And I think that what they found is they look at the experience of the person in office and use the ballot box. We’ve had a lot of comments from people who say they don’t want the government to tell them who they can’t vote for, and I think this clears that up,” he said.