In an election cycle where the age of public officeholders has become a pressing concern, a proposed constitutional amendment in North Dakota is causing quite a stir. Spearheaded by Jared Hendrix, a North Dakota Republican political operative, the amendment aims to set a maximum age limit of 80 for individuals wishing to represent the state in Congress. The campaign is currently in the signature collection phase to ensure the measure appears on the forthcoming June 2024 primary ballot, bypassing the general election in November.
Legal Challenges and Ballot Advisory Language
Fully expecting legal challenges to the maximum age limit, the proposed amendment includes a provision for “ballot advisory” language. If the courts rule against the age limit, next to the names of congressional candidates would be an indicator stating their age at the end of the terms they seek. This applies to both House and Senate candidates, with terms lasting two and six years, respectively.
The amendment’s proponents have until February 12 to gather approximately 31,200 signatures, which equates to around 4% of North Dakota’s population, to get the measure on the ballot.
Implications on Current North Dakota Lawmakers
While North Dakota’s current congressional delegation is relatively young, the proposal is sparking debates about the age-appropriateness of public officials. Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer are 66 and 62, respectively, and House member Kelly Armstrong is just 46. The amendment seems not to be targeting them specifically but is surfacing amidst rising concerns and growing discussions around the suitable age for politicians.
National Perspective: Biden’s Age Predicament
Age has become a nationwide issue, prominently spotlighted by President Joe Biden, who at 78 is the oldest person ever to hold the presidential office. A recent JL Partners/DailyMail.com poll found broad concerns about Biden’s age, with 7 in 10 respondents believing he is too old to be president, including almost half of Democrats.
Calls for Mandatory Competency Tests
The subject of age has even extended to the realm of mandatory mental competency tests. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a prospective 2024 Republican presidential contender, has voiced that politicians above 75 should undergo these assessments.
Senate Senior Citizens’ Health in the Spotlight
Furthermore, the health of senior members of Congress has come into focus. Senator Dianne Feinstein, aged 90, has been under scrutiny for her lapses in a Senate Judiciary Committee session. Her prolonged absence earlier in the year had even temporarily stalled the confirmation process for President Biden’s judicial nominees.
Criticisms and Oppositions
Others are questioning the ethicality and practicality of age limits. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene criticized the family and friends of aging politicians, stating they should feel “ashamed” for enabling them to stay in office. “We are talking about our country’s national security, and it’s all at stake!” she added.
The Voter’s Perspective
Despite media criticism of senior politicians, it remains uncertain whether voters share the same level of concern. The 2024 election could be an interesting litmus test, especially in California, where several candidates seek to succeed the retiring Rep. Grace Napolitano, currently the oldest House member at 87.
As the 2024 election cycle ramps up, the proposed North Dakota amendment, along with the larger nationwide debate around politicians’ age, presents questions that will inevitably shape the future landscape of American politics. Whether or not age restrictions will be implemented, the ongoing discussion sheds light on the complex variables voters must consider when choosing their representatives.