North Dakota voters approve ballot measure setting age limit on US congressional candidates

North Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure that sets age limits on congressional candidates. 

The measure creates a new article in the North Dakota Constitution entitled “Congressional Age Limits,” that establishes “no person may be elected or appointed to serve a term or a portion of a term representing North Dakota in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives if that person could be 81 years old by December 31 of the year immediately preceding the end of the term, and any such person is prohibited from appearing on the ballot.” 

According to the election results shared online by the North Dakota Secretary of State, 60.88% of voters approved the measure, while 39.12% voted against it. A total of 111,709 votes were cast. 

The ballot measure, which bars people from running or serving in the U.S. House or Senate if they are to turn 81 years old during their term, is intended to avoid age-related and cognitive issues among officeholders, supporters say. Though it would not apply to presidential contenders, the measure comes in the same election year as there are serious concerns over 81-year-old President Biden’s mental fitness

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It passed the same day that U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong won Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor of North Dakota, while longtime public utilities regulator Julie Fedorchak finished first in a rambunctious GOP race for the House seat he will vacate. Armstrong, who currently occupies North Dakota’s lone House seat, beat Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who did not seek a third term and is under consideration to be 77-year-old Trump’s vice presidential running mate.

Some legal experts view the measure as a test case for revisiting a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling against congressional term limits. A state legislative panel attached a $1 million cost estimate to the measure in anticipation of a lengthy legal challenge, The Associated Press reported. 

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Jared Hendrix, chair of the sponsoring committee, told the North Dakota Monitor that age limits are crucial to ensure lawmakers are healthy enough to adequately represent North Dakotans’ interests in Washington, D.C. “We just decided talking about it, thinking about it, that 81 was a good number where there’s virtually no opposition at that point,” Hendrix told the newspaper in February. 

Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, who had no primary challenge to his re-election 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, 63, told the AP. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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