North Dakota could introduce new rule for aging lawmakers

North Dakota voters will decide on a measure that could impose age limits for members of Congress

In the state’s Tuesday primary, North Dakota will vote on Measure 1, which would bar residents from being elected or appointed to serve in the House of Representatives or the Senate who are over the age of 81. If nothing else, it could be an opportunity to gauge how middle America views age limits. 

​​“Most people think it’s common sense that politicians should retire at some point,” Jared Hendrix, a Republican politician in Fargo, North Dakota, who led efforts to gather signatures, told the New York Times. “I think it’s very possible that if we pull this off here, other states will follow.”

The Constitution currently makes no restriction on age limits, but it says senators must be at least 30 and members of the House must be at least 25. If approved in North Dakota, candidates would be barred from running for Congress if they were to turn 81 by the end of the year before the end of their term. 

North Dakota’s three members of Congress, Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), as well as Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), would not be affected by the new rule. Cramer, 63, opposed the measure, saying he “can’t imagine why any patriotic conservative would vote to limit their choices.”

Some older residents seem more weary of the measure, one saying the measure was “a solution in search of a problem.” Younger residents may look to embrace age restrictions. 

“If North Dakota passes this, it would allow us to prove to the rest of the country that this is workable, this is something that is reasonable,” one 24-year-old Republican resident said.

North Dakota officials are already gearing up for a legal challenge if passed, estimating it would cost up to $1 million to defend the rule in the Supreme Court.

Hendrix previously spearheaded an initiative in the state that set term limits for the governor and state legislatures. He said collecting the 31,164 signatures was easy. 

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“These are people voting on important judicial appointments. They’re making decisions that could lead to nuclear war,” Hendrix said. “They are making decisions to pass on some $34 trillion in debt to future generations.” 

A Gallup poll found that a wide majority of the country, 79%, favored maximum age limits for elected officials in Washington, D.C., and 74% favored age limits for justices on the Supreme Court. North Dakota, with a population of a little over 770,000, will test the pulse of some voters on the issue on a small scale on Tuesday.

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