North Dakota voters approve first-ever age limit on members of Congress

More than 60 percent of North Dakota primary voters approved a first-ever age limit of 80 for members of Congress, setting the stage for a likely legal challenge of the measure’s constitutionality. The successful passage of the state constitutional amendment means candidates in North Dakota will be barred from serving in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate if they were to exceed the age of 80 while in office.

The potential implications of the precedent-setting measure triggered considerable media coverage from national news outlets like the New York Times, CNN and NBC.

It is believed to be the first-in-the-nation measure imposing age limits on candidates running for federal office, but it’s also expected to be challenged in court.

The measure, which doesn’t affect any of the current federal officeholders from North Dakota, comes as voters voice concerns about the ages of President Joe Biden, who is 81, and former President Donald Trump, who is turning 78 this week, as they each vie for another term as president.

Despite clear public support for age limits on Congress in and beyond North Dakota, the restrictions will almost certainly be challenged in the courts before taking effect. State experts estimate the taxpayer cost of litigating the measure could reach $1 million. Forbes summarized the crux of the probable case this way.

The measure is likely to face legal challenges. The U.S. Constitution has a minimum age criteria for candidates running for federal office—35 for presidents, 30 for U.S senators and 25 for U.S House members—however, there is no mention of a maximum age. In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot impose term limits or any additional qualifiers on candidates running for office beyond what the Constitution specifies. Mark Jendrysik, professor of political science at the University of North Dakota, told the Associated Press he believes the ballot measure is intended to be a test case for the Supreme Court to rule on individual states setting their own congressional age limits.

At least one current member of the North Dakota delegation opposes the age cap on Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, who had no primary challenge to his reelection bid, opposed the measure, saying voters should be able to choose whomever they want.

“To limit those decisions arbitrarily just doesn’t make sense to me,” Cramer said.

Ironically, no member of the state’s delegation would be affected by the constitutional amendment any time soon, should it withstand legal scrutiny.

The new age limit rule is not likely to have an impact on the state’s current crop of Congressional lawmakers. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., who represents the state’s sole Congressional District in the House of Representatives, is 47. Armstrong, won the Republican party’s Gubernatorial primary but is not running for re-election. Julie Fedorchak, who won the GOP primary for the seat in the deep red state, is 55. The two U.S. Senators representing the state—Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.—are 63 and 67, respectively.