North Dakota Voters Support Age Limits for Congressional Candidates

If it passes, North Dakota will be the first state with such a law.
North Dakota Voters Support Age Limits for Congressional Candidates
The North Dakota Capitol in Bismark on Aug. 18, 2013. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

North Dakota voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday that will set an age limit for congressional members, though it is likely to be challenged in court.

About 61 percent of North Dakota residents voted in favor of the proposed measure, while 39 percent were against it; with the measure attracting 111,709 voters, according to the results.
Under the proposed measure, no person may be elected or appointed to serve in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives if that person could attain the age of 81 by Dec. 31 of the year preceding the end of the term.

If a court ruling requires age-limited candidates to appear on the ballot in primary or general elections, a note would need to be placed next to the candidates’ name, indicating the age they would reach by the end of the term they are pursuing, according to the ballot measure.

The measure is expected to face legal challenges, given the 1995 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said that “states cannot impose additional restrictions, such as term limits, on its representatives in the federal government beyond those provided by the Constitution.”
The Constitution sets a minimum age of 35 for the president, 25 for representatives, and 30 for senators, but it does not mention maximum age limits.

State Effort

Jared Hendrix, chair of Retire Congress North Dakota, said there is a possibility that other states will follow suit once the age limit measure is passed in North Dakota.

If it passes, North Dakota will be the first state with such a law.

“Congress has refused to act. Now in North Dakota we are prepared to do something about it and set age limits for Congress,” he said in a press release on March 18.

Mr. Hendrix emphasized that capping the age of congressional members at 80 is “far above the retirement age in the military and many private corporations.”

“The average age of retirement in America is 64. Everybody else retires, I don’t see why politicians should be different,” he said. “We already have age limits on the lower end, just not the upper end.”

To get the measure placed on the June ballot, Retire Congress North Dakota gathered just over 42,000 voter signatures in March. Although 31,164 valid signatures were required, it is common for extra signatures to be gathered in case someone challenges the validity of a signature. The North Dakota Secretary of State’s office later approved it.

“Sadly, Congress has gone from the world’s greatest deliberative body to one of the nation’s best assisted living facilities,” Mr. Hendrix stated.

“With age comes health and cognitive decline, which invariably lead to absences and policy concerns. Some have served even though their cognizance has been called into question.”

Candidate age has figured prominently in the national conversation lately, but the ballot measure speaks only to congressional candidates from North Dakota.

As of September 2023, about 49 members of Congress were over the age of 75.

The late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) died while in office at the age of 90 on Sept. 29, 2023. She held her Senate seat from 1992 to 2023, totaling 31 years. In her final year, there was much speculation about her health and her ability to continue serving.

Beth Brelje contributed to this report.