Length of Terms of Office of STATE Governors
throughout American History

The table on this page is a "work in progress". Please bear with us as we continue to collect the necessary historical data to add to it as time goes along.

 
 

The following table simply describes the lengths of the Terms of Office of State Governors in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA over time. The dates within this table are those of actual gubernatorial elections in which Governors were elected to the Term of Office at the head and foot of the column in which said dates appear (for example, it can easily be seen- in this table- that MARYLAND elected its Governors to 3-year terms from 1838 through 1850: meaning, MARYLAND held elections for Governor in 1838, 1841, 1844, 1847 and 1850 and each Governor chosen in these elections was elected to serve for 3 years maximum in each case [it can also easily be seen that, beginning in 1853, MARYLAND elected its Governor to a 4-year term, etc.]).

The current length of term of a State's Governor is, for each constituent State of the American Union, in boldface (which also indicates the years a State's Governors have been elected to said Term of Office continuously [that is, without a change in Length of Term of Office] down to the present day [NOTE: Special Elections, in States where such might have been utilized, to fill vacancies in the office of Governor for the remainder of an unexpired Term of Office do not at all figure into this table]).

Dates in italics in this table represent anomalous situations which are further explained in notes re: the STATE in question underneath this table (for instance: it can easily be seen- in this table- that DELAWARE elected its Governors to 3-year terms in elections held from 1792 through 1829; the alert user of this table might well notice that 1829 is 37 years after 1792 and well know that, obviously, 37 is not a whole integer multiple of 3: how, then, would such a thing have been possible? The notes underneath this table explain such an anomaly [which had all to do with the fact that, once upon a time, DELAWARE filled vacancies in its Governor's Chair by election to a full Term of Office regardless of in which year of the unexpired term the vacancy occured (in other words, back then, the duly elected successors to a Governor of this State who had died or resigned or otherwise left his Chair vacant did not merely finish out the unexpired term, as would be the case in a Special Election for Governor)]).

Dates in the table below indicating elections for Governor of a State which merely followed the normal constitutional requirements as to the Term of Office for Governor are, of course, not so italicized.

 
 
Length of Terms of Governors POPULARLY ELECTED in the Several States of the American Union
STATE1-year Term2-year Term3-year Term4-year Term
ALABAMA--1819-1863; 1868-190018651902-present
ALASKA------1958-present
ARIZONA19111912-1968--1970-present
ARKANSAS--1872-1984--1836-1868; 1986-present
CALIFORNIA--1849-186118791863-1875; 1882-present
COLORADO--1876-1956--1958-present
CONNECTICUT1776-18761876-1948--1950-present
DELAWARE----1792-18291832-present
FLORIDA--196418451848-1960; 1966-present
GEORGIA--1825-1865; 1880-1940--1868-1876; 1942-present
HAWAII----19591962-present
IDAHO--1890-1944--1946-present
ILLINOIS--1846; 1976--1818-1842; 1848-1972; 1978-present
INDIANA----1816-18491852-present
IOWA--1857-1901; 1906-19721854; 19031846-1850; 1974-present
KANSAS--1862-197218591974-present
KENTUCKY -- -- 1848 1800-1844; 1851-present
LOUISIANA -- -- 1846-1852 1855-1863; 1868-1972; 1975-present
MAINE 1820-1879 1880-1956 -- 1958-present
MARYLAND -- -- 1838-1850; 1861; 1864; 1923 1853-1857; 1867-1919; 1926-present
MASSACHUSETTS 1780-1919 1920-1964 -- 1966-present
MICHIGAN 1851 1835-1849; 1852-1964 -- 1966-present
MINNESOTA -- 1857-1881; 1886-1960 1883 1962-present
MISSISSIPPI -- 1817-1867 -- 1869-present
MISSOURI -- -- -- 1820-present
MONTANA -- -- 1889 1892-present
NEBRASKA -- 1866-1964 -- 1966-present
NEVADA -- 1864 -- 1866-present
NEW HAMPSHIRE 1784-1878 1878-present -- --
NEW JERSEY -- -- 1844-1946 1949-present
NEW MEXICO -- 1916-1968 -- 1911; 1970-present
NEW YORK -- 1820-1874; 1894-1936 1777-1817; 1876-1891 1938-present
NORTH CAROLINA -- 1836-1866 -- 1868-present
NORTH DAKOTA 1889 1890-1962 -- 1964-present
OHIO 1850 1803-1848; 1851-1903; 1908-1956 1905 1958-present
OKLAHOMA -- -- 1907 1910-present
OREGON -- -- -- 1858-present
PENNSYLVANIA -- -- 1790-1875 1878-present
RHODE ISLAND 1776-1911 1912-1992 -- 1994-present
SOUTH CAROLINA -- 1868-1924 1865 1926-present
SOUTH DAKOTA 1889 1890-1972 -- 1974-present
TENNESSEE 1796; 1869 1797-1867; 1870-1952 -- 1954-present
TEXAS 1865 1845-1863; 1873; 1878-1972 1866; 1875 1869; 1974-present
UTAH -- -- -- 1896-present
VERMONT 1778-1869 1870-present -- --
VIRGINIA -- -- -- 1851-1863; 1869-present
WASHINGTON -- -- 1889 1892-present
WEST VIRGINIA 1863 1864-1870 -- 1872-present
WISCONSIN 1848 1849-1879; 1884-1968 1881 1970-present
WYOMING -- -- -- 1890-present
STATE 1-year Term 2-year Term 3-year Term 4-year Term
 
 

In ALABAMA, a Governor was elected to a transitional 3-year term in 1865 in order to accommodate a change in the date of State elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.

ALASKA was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1959 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year.

ARIZONA was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1912 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year.

ARKANSAS elected a Governor in 1872 for a 4-year term per the State Constitution then in force; however, a new State Constitution reducing the term of office of the State's Governor to 2 years was ratified in 1874, thus effectively, as well as retrospectively, making the most recent election for Governor at the time an election for a term of but 2 years.

CALIFORNIA was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1850 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year. In 1879, a Governor was elected to a transitional 3-year term in order to accommodate a change in the date of State elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.

CONNECTICUT held two elections for Governor in 1876: the first was held in April of that year in order to elect a successor to the Governor who had been elected, as per the State Constitution then in force, to a 1-year term in State elections held the previous April; the second was the first election of a Governor to a 2-year term the immediately following November, per an Amendment to that Constitution which not only extended the term of office of the State's Governor but also moved the date of State elections to November of even-numbered years.

DELAWARE's legislature elected the State's chief executive (at the time called the State "President") until 1792. Once a Governor was being elected by the People beginning that same year, the State Constitution originally required that a vacancy in the office of Governor be filled by election to a full Term of Office. From 1792 through 1816, Governors were elected to a full Term of Office every 3 years but the Governor so elected in 1819 died in office, necessitating an election for Governor to a full 3-year term in 1820; the Governor so elected also died in office, necessitating an election for Governor to a full 3-year term in 1822, but the Governor so elected also died in office (the third Governor duly elected by the People in succession to not complete his 3-year term), necessitating an election for Governor to a full 3-year term in 1823: elections for Governor to full 3-year terms followed in 1826 and 1829. Beginning in 1832, the State began electing Governors to 4-year terms: however, the Governor so elected in 1844 died in office, necessitating an election for Governor to a full 4-year term in 1846; Governors were thereafter elected to full 4-year terms from then through 1894, whereupon the Governor elected in that election died in office, necessitating an election of a Governor to a full 4-year term in 1896. The State Constitution of DELAWARE adopted in 1897 (the first to provide for a Lieutenant Governor, by the way) finally did away with this provision and Governors of the State have been elected to 4-year terms in Presidential Election years ever since, regardless of any vacancies in the office that might occur.

FLORIDA adopted its first State Constitution in 1838 but was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1845, in which year (per that State Constitution which set the date of the first State elections for after FLORIDA had been notified of its Admission to Statehood), it held its first elections: the election of a Governor in 1845, therefore, was for a transitional term of office to be served until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established. The election of a Governor in 1964 was for a transitional term of office necessitated by FLORIDA changing the date of its gubernatorial elections from even-numbered years in which a Presidential Election was held to even-numbered years other than those coinciding with a Presidential Election.

GEORGIA's legislature elected its Governor until 1825. The State was under a U.S. Military Government in the aftermath of the American Civil War (before the term of the Governor elected in 1865 had been completed); Civil Government was restored with the adoption of a new State Constitution in 1868.

HAWAII was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1959: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

In ILLINOIS, an election for Governor was held in 1846 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term, thereby allowing the State to switch from gubernatorial elections in even-numbered years not coinciding with a Presidential Election to even-numbered years in which a Presidential Election was held (this being the result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1848). In 1976, a Governor was purposely elected to a transitional term to allow the State to return to gubernatorial elections in even-numbered years other than those coinciding with a Presidential Election.

In IOWA, an election for Governor was held in 1854 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1857 which scheduled State elections for odd-numbered years. In 1903, a Governor was purposely elected to a transitional term in order to allow State elections to return to even-numbered years (per an Amendment to the State Constitution).

KANSAS was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1861 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers two years earlier: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

In KENTUCKY, "Electors of the [State] Senate" chose the State's Governor in 1792 and 1796; popular election of the Governor first began with the election of 1800. An election for Governor was held in 1848 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1850 which scheduled State elections, thereafter, for odd-numbered years.

LOUISIANA's legislature elected its Governor until 1846. Since popular election alone of the Governor was first instituted, the State has always authorized a term of office of 4 years for its Governor: however, the new State Constitution of 1845 purposely provided for a transitional term to which a Governor would be elected in 1846 and his successor elected for a full 4-year term in 1849; this 4-year term, in turn, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1852 which provided for a transitional term to which a Governor would be elected in 1852 and his successor elected for a full 4-year term in 1855. The State was under U.S. Military Government in the aftermath of the Civil War which- along with the ratifications of new State Constitutions in both 1864 and 1868- effectively interfered with its ordinary schedule of State elections. LOUISIANA ratified yet another new State Constitution in 1879 which provided for the election of a new Governor in the same election in which the new Constitution was being voted on (thereby effectively reducing the term of the Governor elected for a 4-year term in 1876); the Governor so elected in 1879 was purposely permitted to serve until his successor was elected for a 4-year term in 1884. In addition, beginning with this State Constitution of 1879 and up through 1960, LOUISIANA held its State elections in April of Presidential Election years (thus, separately from elections for Federal office in November of the same year); however: beginning in 1964, the State began moving its elections back into the Winter of Presidential Election years and then, eventually, into the Fall of the odd-numbered year immediately preceding a Presidential Election year: please note that LOUISIANA never allowed its Governors less than a 4-year a term of office during this period (1972 happens to be the last time the State elected its Governor in an even-numbered year [at the beginning of February in that particular year], while 1975 happens to be the first time the State elected its Governor in an odd-numbered year during this "transition" [in December of that particular year]; the State has been electing its Governors to a 4-year term in the Fall of odd-numbered years ever since.)

[NOTE: for more detail about these more recent changes in the dates of LOUISIANA's State elections, please see the table re: Dates of DIRECT PRIMARY Elections re: Major Party Nominations for Statewide and/or Federal Office which includes the dates of LOUISIANA's State general elections during the period in question.]

MARYLAND's legislature elected its Governor until 1838. Since popular election of the Governor was first instituted, the State has always authorized a term of office of 4 years for its Governor: however, an election for Governor was held in 1861 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1864 which scheduled State elections for even-numbered years; pursuant to this new Constitution, an election for Governor was held in 1864 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1867 which returned State elections to odd-numbered years. In 1923, a Governor was purposely elected to a transitional term in order to allow State elections to return to even-numbered years (per an Amendment to the State Constitution).

MICHIGAN was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1837 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers two years earlier. In 1851, a Governor was purposely elected to a transitional term in order to allow for State elections in even-numbered years (per a new State Constitution ratified in 1850).

In 1883, MINNESOTA purposely elected a Governor to a transitional 3-year term in order to allow for State elections in even-numbered years (per an Amendment to the State Constitution).

MISSISSIPPI adopted a new State Constitution in 1890 under which the Governor elected to a 4-year term in 1889 had his term of office purposely extended for two more years, so that his successor would be elected to a 4-year term in 1895: the State has elected its Governor in odd-numbered years immediately preceding a Presidential Election year ever since.

MONTANA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1889: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

NEBRASKA was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1867 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year.

NEVADA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1864: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of gubernatorial elections in even-numbered years not coinciding with Presidential Election years could be established.

NEW HAMPSHIRE held two elections for Governor in 1878: the first was held in March of that year in order to elect a successor to the Governor who had been elected, as per the State Constitution then in force, to a 1-year term in State elections held the previous March; the second was the first election of a Governor to a 2-year term the immediately following November, per an Amendment to that Constitution which not only extended the term of office of the State's Governor but also moved the date of State elections to November of even-numbered years.

NEW JERSEY's legislature elected its Governor until 1844.

NEW MEXICO was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1912 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year: the Governor elected that year [1911] served a purposely extended 4-year term (in the midst of which an Amendment to the State Constitution reduced the Governor's term of office to 2 years beginning in 1916).

NEW YORK's State Constitution originally required that a vacancy in the office of Governor be filled by election to a full Term of Office. From 1777 through 1813, Governors were elected to a full Term of Office every 3 years but the Governor so elected in 1816 (Daniel Tompkins who had been declared elected Vice President of the United States by Congress in Tabulation Joint Session [1817], by the way) resigned, necessitating an election for Governor to a full 3-year term in 1817. Subsequently, an election for Governor was held in 1820 for a 3-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1821 which, thereafter, scheduled State elections for even-numbered years (concomitantly reducing the Governor's tem to 2 years beginning in 1822).

NORTH CAROLINA's legislature elected its Governor until 1836.

NORTH DAKOTA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1889: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

OHIO's State Constitution originally required that a vacancy in the office of Governor be filled by election to a full Term of Office. In 1803 and 1805, Governors were elected to a full Term of Office every 2 years but the result of the election for Governor in 1807 was disputed: unable to otherwise resolve this dispute, the legislature declared the office vacant and authorized a new election of Governor to a full 2-year term (as constitutionally required in the case of a vacancy, as aforesaid) in 1808: elections for Governor to full 2-year terms followed from 1810 through 1848. An election for Governor was held in 1850 for a 2-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1851 which, thereafter, scheduled State elections for odd-numbered years. In 1905, the State purposely elected a Governor to a transitional 3-year term in order to allow for State elections in even-numbered years (per an Amendment to the State Constitution).

OKLAHOMA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1907: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

OREGON was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1859 but, in anticipation of imminent Statehood, had elected its first State officers the previous year.

PENNSYLVANIA's legislature elected the State's chief executive (at the time called the State "President") until 1790. Once a Governor was being elected by the People beginning that same year, the State Constitution originally required that a vacancy in the office of Governor be filled by election to a full Term of Office. From 1790 through 1844, Governors were elected to a full Term of Office every 3 years but the Governor so elected in 1847 resigned, necessitating an election for Governor to a full 3-year term in 1848: elections for Governor to full 3-year terms followed from 1851 through 1875.

SOUTH CAROLINA's legislature elected its Governor until 1865. The State's first popular election for Governor was held in 1865 for a 4-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1868 which scheduled State elections, thereafter, for even-numbered years.

SOUTH DAKOTA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1889: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

TENNESSEE was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1796: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in odd-numbered years could be established. An election for Governor was held in 1869 for a 2-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1870 which, thereafter, scheduled State elections for odd-numbered years.

In TEXAS, an election for Governor was held in 1865 for a 2-year term which, however, ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1866 which, thereafter, scheduled State elections for even-numbered years: the Governor so elected that year [1866] was elected to a 4-year term per this new State Constitution but this ended up being a transitional term as a result of the ratification of a new State Constitution in 1868 which, thereafter, again scheduled State elections for odd-numbered years. The Governor of TEXAS elected in 1875 served a transitional term until State elections in even-numbered years could be re-established.

UTAH was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1896: the Governor elected in the first State elections early that calendar year served a purposely extended 4-year term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in November of even-numbered years could be established.

VERMONT was not admitted as a constituent State of the American Union until 1791 but- although claimed by NEW YORK prior to that date- operated under its own Constitution as something of an independent "Republic" until so achieving Statehood.

VIRGINIA's legislature elected its Governor until 1851. The Governor elected in 1863 was the only Governor actually elected under the flag of the Confederacy and was effectively "deposed" when the U.S. Military came into control of the State at the end of the American Civil War; meanwhile, those parts of VIRGINIA remaining loyal to the Union (including the future State of WEST VIRGINIA) elected a provisional pro-Union Governor in 1862 who continued to serve, under a new State Constitution adopted in 1864 (in those portions of the State under Union control), as the Federally-recognized Governor of VIRGINIA until Civil Government was fully restored in the State in 1869.

WASHINGTON was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1889: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

WEST VIRGINIA was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1863: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in even-numbered years could be established.

WISCONSIN was admitted as a constituent State of the American Union in 1848: the Governor elected that year served a transitional term until the ordinary sequence of State elections in odd-numbered years could be established. In 1881, the State purposely elected a Governor to a transitional 3-year term in order to allow for State elections in even-numbered years (per an Amendment to the State Constitution).