North Dakota voters pass age restrictions on congressional candidates in new ballot measure

North Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure barring congressional candidates who would turn 81 by the end of the year before their term would expire.

The measure, which cleared the simple majority needed to amend the state’s constitution with 61% support, is likely to face legal challenges, and it will not immediately affect North Dakota’s current congressional delegation, all three of whom are under the age of 70.

But Tuesday’s vote is likely reflective of growing concerns about the age of top US leadership. President Joe Biden, who is 81, has faced a stubborn political challenge due to his age as he seeks reelection, and his presumptive Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, turns 78 on Friday. The late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died in office at 90 last September, had rejected repeated calls from her Democratic colleagues to step down, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 82, announced in February that he will step down as GOP leader after suffering a string of high-profile health incidents in the past year.

The campaign surrounding the ballot measure, called Retire Congress North Dakota, was led by political consultant Jared Hendrix, who championed the successful 2022 effort to apply term limits to the North Dakota governorship, state House and state Senate.

“We do think that there is a lot of wisdom that comes with age. But, of course, there’s a limit, to where we all face a decline of some kind at some point. And so, we wanted to try to find the right balance. We thought 80 was the balance,” Hendrix told PBS News Hour ahead of the vote.

Members in the House of Representatives and Senate must be at least 25 and 30 years old, respectively, to be sworn into Congress, but there is no upper limit on their age in the Constitution. The Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1995 that states cannot place restrictions on representatives in the federal government beyond the limits set in the Constitution.

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