North Dakota Proposes Case for Political Age Limit

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Mar 31, 2024

As the two proposed candidates for the 2024 presidential election in the US are currently aged 78 and 81, this has heightened the questions surrounding the age of politicians.

A North Dakota ballot question set to run in the summer of 2024 will decide whether there should be a political upper age limit for those wanting to run for political positions.

The Age Limit Will Be 81

North Dakota is proposing that the upper age limit for prospective politicians will be 81, according to NPR.

Joe Biden sitting down in front of a US flag.

Source: The White House/Wikimedia Commons

This age limit will be for those planning on running for the US House of Representatives or Senate if they will be turning 81 before the last three days of their turn.

There Are Already Lower Age Limits for Holding Office

One point many people are making is that while there is currently no upper age limit on holding office, there are lower age limits.

Theodore Roosevelt, who was the youngest US President at 42 years old. It is a black-and-white photo. He is wearing spectacles and has a mustache.

Source: Adam Cuerden/Wikimeda Commons

Mandatory Retirement Is in Place in Other Industries

Politics wouldn’t be the only industry to have a mandatory retirement age in place, as other industries also have mandatory retirement ages.

A pilot controlling a plane. She has headphones on with a mic that connects her to air traffic control. She is holding the steering wheel with one hand and pressing buttons with another.

Source: Westwind Air Service/Unsplash

For example, air traffic controllers, airplane pilots, and roles within the military all have various mandatory retirement ages.

Some Are Saying This Is Age Discrimination

Despite the lower age limits for politicians, some are saying that imposing an upper age limit would be age discrimination.

S Jay Olshansky being interviewed. He has a mic attached to his shirt and is sitting in front of a bookshelf that has some flowers on.

Source: PennInstituteonAging/YouTube

NPR reported that S Jay Olshansky said that while he understands the older you get, the more risks there are of things going wrong, he doesn’t get how you can set an exact age at which politicians would have to retire. “It’s just simply age discrimination,” he stated.

One Senator Died While in Office

Senator Dianne Feinstein was aged 90 when she died and was still in office at that point.

Dianne Feinstein giving a speech. She is standing behind a microphone and is looking at the crowd.

Source: Benjamin Dunn/Wikimedia Commons

Feinstein first came into the US Senate in 1992 and had been serving for over 30 years, being in her sixties when she first started.


Most Americans Are in Favor of an Upper Age Limit

A poll run by Pew Research Center discovered that the majority of Americans are in favor of an upper age limit being placed on politicians.

A US flag on a pole against a blue sky with clouds.

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

A total of 79% of Americans were in favor of upper age limits for those serving in Washington D.C., and 74% were in favor of upper age limits in the Senate.


Performance Is More of a Concern Than Experience

While an older politician might hold more experience than someone younger, this doesn’t always mean they are right for the job.

Donald Trump smiling for his official portrait. There is a US flag behind him.

Source: Shaleah Craighead/Wikimedia Commons

CBS News ran a poll with YouGov and found that most Americans believe that politicians over the age of 75 are more likely to be out of touch with what most of the public wants. They’re also concerned about an older politician’s ability to do the job well.


A Change in the Constitution Would Have to Be Made

One issue with creating an upper age limit for politicians would be placing a change in the Constitution.

An original printing of the US Constitution. It says “We, the people of the United States, to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and feature the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”

Source: Dunlap & Claypoole/Wikimedia Commons

Two-thirds of US states would have to request this change. However, most proposed amendments to the Constitution rarely end up happening.


Americans Would Prefer a President in Their 50's

Pew Research Center carried out a study where they asked Americans from the age of 18 up to 70 and over what their preferred age for a president would be.

Barack Obama smiling for his official US President portrait. He has a pin of the US flag on his suit. The US flag is in the background.

Source: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons

Almost every age group said they would prefer a president in their 50s, with some of the runner-ups being presidents in their 40s and 60s. Hardly anyone in any age group said they would like a president in their 30s or aged 70 and over.


North Dakota Will Vote Based on a Petition

The Dickinson Press reported on a petition that was created to allow the public to vote on having an upper age limit for politicians.

A person signing a piece of paper with a red biro. There is a bouquet on the table next to it.

Source: Guvo59/Pixabay

The North Dakota Secretary of State Office accepted 32,370 signatures from the petition, as 9,700 had been ruled invalid. Since there is a required threshold of 31,146, this means they will move to a vote.


A Person’s Age Doesn’t Always Determine How Fit They Are for Office

One thing important to remember in all of this is that a person’s age doesn’t always determine how fit they are for office.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama walking across the tarmac. There are groups of people walking behind them.

Source: The White House/Wikimedia Commons

Some people who are over 80 might be perfectly fit to hold office for the length of their term, whereas others might struggle, due to age-related factors. But only time will tell how North Dakota votes and whether this vote will affect the rest of the US political state.