Age Limit for Members of Congress Proposed in North Dakota

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North Dakota voters are set to take to the polls this week to decide whether there should be an age limit placed on people serving in Congress.

Age has been a hot topic of politics in the last few years, rising to new heights as 81-year-old President Joe Biden seeks another four years in the White House. If he were to win and serve out four more years, he’d be 85 years old by the time his term was up.

Even his opponent, presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump, is up there in age at 77 years old.

Even the leaders of the two parties in Congress are elderly. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel is 82 years old, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 73.

While the two leaders in the House are much younger — House Speaker Mike Johnson is 52, while Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is 53 — the upper crust of the parties before them are older.

As a result, discussions about putting an age limit in place is nothing new, but North Dakota is the first state to officially put it up for vote.

Of course, the state is rather small from a population standpoint — with only 779,000 residents — so an age limit won’t have a huge effect on future Congresses. And even if the measure does pass, it would likely face legal challenges.

What the ballot measure does, though, is give the country a look into what a cohort of its citizens think about a congressional age limit. 

Jared Hendrix, a Fargo Republican who led the charge to have the question added to the ballot, commented:

“Most people think it’s common sense that politicians should retire at some point. I think it’s very possible that if we pull this off here, other states will follow.”

If voters approve the measure, the state Constitution will be amended to say that any candidate who wishes to run for Congress must not turn 81 years old or older before the end of their term. It would only apply to candidates who wish to run for Congress representing North Dakota.

Right now, the state only has three members of Congress, and all of them are well younger than this age limit. In essence, this means that the bill’s passage wouldn’t have any effect on politics in North Dakota for quite some time, seeing as the oldest incumbent member of Congress from the state is 67 years old.

Senator Kevin Cramer, who is 63 years old and is running for reelection, said that he’s opposed to the measure. He commented to The New York Times via email:

“I can’t imagine why any patriotic conservative would vote to limit their choices.”

There are mixed views about the topic around the state, though, according to The Times’ report. The paper spoke with retired journalism professor Lou Richardson, a Democrat from Fargo.

She said she already voted against the bill during the state’s early voting period, adding:

“Sixty-five used to be old, but I have children who are in their 60s now and they are young. For me, this is a solution in search of a problem.”