Why Did TX Voters Reject Raised Retirement Age?

Texas flag and ballot box | Image by vepar5

Why did Texans reject a proposed amendment to the state constitution on Tuesday that would have increased the mandatory retirement age of state judges?

Texas voters who went to the polls on November 7 passed 13 of 14 proposed constitutional amendments, as The Dallas Express reported, but not the one that would have allowed judges to serve until age 79.

Opponents of the measure included Abbigail Wood, a columnist for The Daily Texan, who criticized the proposal as an attempt to move further into what she called a “gerontocracy ” or rule by the very old. 

Wood cited an article in The Seattle Times critically noting the next presidential election will be contested by two men aged 80 (current President Joe Biden) and 77 (former President Donald Trump). At the same time, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein died in office while seemingly fielding age-related cognitive impairment in the months leading up to her passing, as reported by The Dallas Express.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Wood distilled her argument against Prop 13, encouraging students to vote against the amendment “in order to promote the revitalization of Texas’ state judges and encourage age representation while preventing a cognitive decline in state representatives.” 

Others took to X to express similar sentiments. Toby Petzold, who describes himself as “anti-Democrat, and scourge of Obamatons everywhere” in his profile, said on X, “I like that Texas Proposition 13 is defeated. If you’re a judge at 75, that means you’re financially set, so hit the showers, goddammit. I’m tired of old people not realizing when it’s time to leave the arena.”

However, the failed measure did have its advocates. Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) was one such group, arguing on X that aging out good jurists was arbitrary and that the reasons for an age limit could be and have been addressed by more targeted measures.

TLR spoke with Judge Doug Woodburn, aged 74, who said, “Things have changed. People live longer now. People stay healthy and are more capable now than they might have been many years ago when that constitutional provision was originally written. We do a lot better than we used to.”

Woodburn also noted that a judicial oversight commission could step in if a judge showed obvious signs of impairment.

“I think if a judge is losing it, if they’re in a position where they’re really not competent any longer, I think that word gets out pretty quick,” he said.

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