Speak Outs
Speak Out
On Congress: Should the requirements to run for Congress be changed?

October 15, 2015

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer,

Imagine discovering a person interested in running to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives who was young, full of ideas for improving government, and could understand and address the issues facing you. That person would probably have your vote, right?

But you’re out of luck if the person doesn’t meet the requirements in the Constitution to serve as a representative.

The requirements to serve in Congress are few. Outlined in Article I, Section 2, for the House and Section 3 for the Senate, the only requirements to be a member of Congress are age and length of U.S. citizenship.

To be a representative, you have to be 25 years old and a naturalized citizen for the past seven years. To be a senator, you have to be 35 and a naturalized citizen for the past nine years.

Changing those requirements would mean amending the U.S. Constitution.

Age Requirement

Rarely does Congress have more than one member who is under the age of 35, yet nearly 24 percent of the U.S. population is between 18 and 34. And voting rates for those ages 18-25 are the lowest for all age groups. Some say that younger congressional representatives might draw more voting participation from their peers since those lawmakers may be more concerned about issues like rising tuition rates and low employment rates.

The debate on age requirements was short during the Constitutional Convention. Virginia delegate George Mason suggested the minimum age of 25 to serve in the House after the founders initially chose 21, the voting age. Virginia delegate James Madison wrote of Mason’s reasoning: “He would if interrogated be obliged to declare that his political opinions at the age of 21 were too crude and erroneous to merit an influence on public measures” Simply put, Mason himself thought that he would have been too immature at 21.

Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson said there should be no age requirement. He pointed to British Prime Minister William Pitt, who at age 24 was the youngest prime minister in British history.

Citizenship Requirement

The rationale behind citizenship requirements was based on the fear that the country could be influenced by a foreign power. The Founding Fathers wanted the country open to immigration and have newcomers serve in Congress but at the same time ensure that they were free of their homeland’s ideologies or prejudices.

City and State Requirements

Several states and cities have lower age requirements to hold office, but they vary. A 21-year-old can be governor of South Dakota, but Oklahoma says its governor has to be at least 31. In New York City and Los Angeles, an 18-year-old can be mayor.

In 2008, John Tyler Hammons was elected mayor of Muskogee, Okla., at the age of 19. He served two terms, overseeing reforms to the city charter, beefing up campaign finance regulations and increasing spending on infrastructure. His achievements at the end of his second term could have propelled another, older candidate to a possible seat in the U.S. Senate or House, but Hammons’ age prevented him from seeking a federal office.

Some say that states and local governments are where civic-minded young adults to hone their skills. They gain an education and a level of maturity that can help them become better candidates and better representatives.

What do you think?

Should the federal age and citizenship requirements for Congress be changed? Would having younger candidates get younger voters to the ballot boxes? Should citizenship requirements be removed or lessened to allow better representation of the population? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
3/17/2016
Stroudsburg/PA
Emily Dougherty
Mr. Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
No. People's brains don't completely develop until their around 25. I think that the age requirement for Congress are fine. But I also think, it would be refreshing to have some younger people in postitions of political power. I'm sure other younger people feel the same way. The requirement to be a representative is 25, in my opinion the perfect age requirement. Younger people could join the House of Representatives if they wanted. 25 is really not that old anyway. As to if citizenship requirements, I don't think they should be changed either. They seem perfectly reasonable to me.

12/11/2015
Diamond Bar/California
Jon-CesarP.4
Wong/Lorbeer
No, I do not think the federal age or citizenship requirements should be changed. But I do however think that if we did have younger people running for office, it would cause people of the same age group to get more involved in with voting. I do not think that citizenship requirements should be removed or lessened to better represent the population. I think this because you must be a citizen for at least 7 years to fully understand the government of our country. We in the United States have lived prosperously with our federal age and citizenship requirements. There is no severe issue today regarding there being people that want to be in Congress but are too young to. To become experienced in holding public office, I suggest someone younger than 25 years of age run for the position of mayor like many other young people have. By the time they become 25 they will know exactly how to represent their people in Congress.

12/10/2015
Pomona
ErikP4
Wong/Lorbeer
The age limit to run for Congress should be lowered. People who are young have more bright and creative ideas how to run the state. They will also get a way to hone their skills, improve their education and gain a new level of maturity. But I do not believe the seven years u have to be a citizen should be changed. The country could be ruled by foreign powers and change dramatically if the time to become a citizen was lowered.

11/17/2015
Diamond Bar,CA
JustinP.1
Wong/Lorbeer
I think the age limit should not be changed because the age limit for being a representative or senator is fair. If younger people were allowed to be in those positions. they may not have enough experience in the government. If the representatives only had to be at least 20, the people who are eligible would be people who did not go to college, or dropped out. This may hurt the government because these people have only graduated with a high school diploma at most.

11/16/2015
hesperia/california
Aleena
Mr.Jimenez
I think the age shouldn't change because, the people who are young may not have as much education as when you are when your 25.

11/12/2015
Irving, TX
Rolando
Mrs. Bradley
It is correct to have requirements for congress such as citizenship , it's essential. Yet the age shouldn't matter , the reason being is for many minds out in the world are brilliant. For example many people tend to think eighteen year olds and twenty one year olds are inresponsible. We should give a chance to let them guide us and have a chance for new ideas.

11/11/2015
Irving/Texas
Daisy
Bradley/Nimitz
For Congress, citizenship is key. First-hand knowledge is the only way to do away with assumptions- this country is nothing like the rest- we're free, diverse, and we work as a team. As for the federal age, it's easy to believe that seniority is best but when the young adults hold the future in their hands, this could only benefit the system. As the seniority provides the traditional ideals, the young adults will provide the future- maybe cracking the door open little by little will reveal a bright future, more accommodating and understanding. The longer we withhold a meaningful position to the young adults, the more time they have to lose the inspiration for that desired job. Time can work for us or against us, and still it remains our choice.

11/11/2015
Irving/Tx
Lexia Martinez
Bradlley/ Nimitz
I don't think the requirements should be changed because its not worth it. The age requirement allows people to get a developed education and have a better understanding of how the country works, especially for the Senate where each member holds more power in comparison to the House and that's an important reason. The way things are should be kept the same just because its going to turn out to have a better chance for us.

11/10/2015
irving/tx
luz
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the requirements to run for congress should not be change because, they were form for some reason, and that reason was to protect our government. Twenty-five is a decent age for a candidate to become a representative and thirty-five for a candidate to become a senator, because at this age people are well mature and prepared to take a big responsibility. It might be true that having younger candidates will get younger voters to the ballot boxes, but think about it, usually teenagers have hard times making the right decisions. If this would of happen our government would not be secure. Citizenship requirements should not be remove, why would anyone else that is not part of this country would have the right to vote here? it has no sense.

11/9/2015
Irving/Texas
Erica
Bradley/Nimitz
The conditions to become a representative are placed to ensure a level headed, matured and wise individual enters office. Should local and state governments serve as a starting point for young, ambitious politicians, they can gain the rationality and logic needed to make decisions that will benefit not only their constituents at home, but decisions for the entire nation. Younger voters will perhaps be impressed and more engaged in politics should a younger person run for office, but like the rest of the American public, they are most attracted to the presidential election. Our only hope is to educate younger generations that local legislation is more important. The same applies to citizenship. The living requirements are so the politicians can understand local politics and their constituents needs.

11/9/2015
Irving, TX
Alicia
Bradley/Nimitz
The requirements to be a congressman should not be changed as there are reasons behind each requirement. The reasons are put into place to ensure that the person has a fair amount of knowledge about the workings of the government and knows the responsibility they would be taking on. After all, young voters will not suddenly want to begin voting more often just because some of the candidates are younger. Young voters will still be too busy for the voting process. Overall, the requirements are set and should not be changed.

11/5/2015
Irving/Tx
Jubilee
Bradley/Nimitz
The federal age and citizenship of congress should not be changed because of the reason behind the Requirements. To run for office in the house of representatives you must be 25 year old. typically you would been on you own four 4-6 years most like got some kind of degree.Changing the age requirements would just change would be risking the fact that people will be voting into office and not know what will benefit the people. Changing the voting age to attract young people to the polls would most not work because younger people typically don't vote because of the their busy sceales of school and work. but when coming to citizenship it should also not be changed because it is logical that you must be a citizen because it shows that they are a part of the this country. Law and regulations are sit for a reason so that congress and the United States run as reasonable as possible.

11/4/2015
Irving,Texas
Nicholas
Bradley/Nimitz
The requirements shouldn't be changed because this is just another ploy of the federal gov't to try to amend the constitution. I believe the requirements to be in congress should be as it is. I think if a candidate at a younger age would be a bit of a wild card, because he may bring in a younger audience support, but he may also lack experience. So the requirements should stay the same because i don't believe wouldn't want to take that risk.

11/1/2015
Irving/Texas
Gabriela
Bradley/Nimitz
No, the requirements for Congress should not be changed. My reason, is because the age of 25 is perfect experience for those wanting to be in Congress, because by that age they should have their priorities straight and they should have some experience. Having younger candidates will not get “younger voters to the ballot boxes. A younger age of the candidate would not change anything, the only thing that would catch younger voters attention would be the candidates ideas and goals. The citizenship requirements should not change, because the time they are given to be citizens before running for congress is enough. They gain more knowledge and experience throughout the years as being congressmen. Lastly but not least, changing one of those requirements would cause amending the U.S Constitution and nobody is for that.

10/26/2015
Irving/Texas
Nicole N
Bradley/Nimitz
Congress requirements should stay the same because the requirements now aren’t a problem. They are very effective so far and they allow time for someone to get as much experience as they can in order to run. For example, the age requirements are fine because they give people the time to do what they need to to get the extent of experience for the job. You don’t want someone too young and not able to do what they would need to in office. That’s not fair to everyone it would affect. In all honesty, the requirement probably wouldn’t even be the age they think it is if anyone didn’t think they could handle it.

10/25/2015
Irving/TX
Caroline
Bradley/Nimitz
The federal age and citizenship requirements for Congress should not be changed. Currently, an individual must be at least 25 years old and a naturalized citizen for the past seven years in order to be a representative. To be a senator, an individual must be at least 35 years old and a naturalized citizen for the past nine years. These requirements exist because the founding fathers wanted to ensure that this country would be in great hands; they didn’t want immature leaders to make decisions for the nation. In order to maintain the same level of maturity in Congress, Congress shouldn’t change the federal age and citizenship requirements. Although having younger candidates might encourage young voters to vote, younger candidates wouldn’t have the experience needed to maintain a federal position. Even 25 year olds aren’t mature enough to handle the baggage that comes with being an elected federal official, such as being in Washington certain parts of the year. Yet being 25 is the minimum age requirement to be a representative, and it shouldn’t be any less. Although, at age 25, people are trying to figure out their own lives. But the United States’ government allows individuals at least 25 years old to run for a position in congress. I strongly believe that even at 25 years old, an individual is not responsible enough to make decisions that affect an entire group of people, but at least these 25 year olds have been naturalized citizens for at least seven years. To be a leader in any country, it would only be sensible if that individual was a citizen. Citizen requirements should not be removed or lessened to allow better representation of the population. Instead, the citizenship requirements should stay the same: to be a senator, an individual must be a naturalized citizen for the past nine years, and to be a representative, an individual must be a naturalized citizen for the past seven years. The requirements to run for Congress should not be changed.

10/25/2015
Irving/Texas
Jose V.
Bradley/Nimitz
Congress should not change its age requirements because it allows for experience to be gain also maturity, and the citizenship requirement is fine because it goes with our country history of being a safe haven for people from other countries since the beginning of this nation. I don’t believe having younger candidates will help get more young voters because if the young people are not voting right now it won’t change much with younger candidates. Also it be impractical to do this because if the candidates are too young they be less mature to act properly on matters that will affect the nation especially how technology is part of our daily lives now. The citizenship requirement should stay as it is because this allows immigrants to become citizens and gain knowledge about the country politics. Then when they want to become a member in congress they can represent their own people better and also look out for the nation also.

10/23/2015
Irving/Texas
Lija
Bradley/Nimitz
Federal age and citizenship requirements for congress are the issue that we talk about for several years. In my opinion the federal age and citizenship requirements for congress should not be changed because the more old the person is the more knowledge they have about that nation and real world. They will take decisions in a matured manner and they will have better ideas that will be good for the nation from there real life experiences but the younger candidates may get more young vote to the ballot boxes but they do not have many real life experience and more knowledge. I believe that citizenship requirements should be also there because if there is no citizenship requirements then anyone can rule the United States and that will be bad for us because that person will not know much about the US and congress so that person may bring that person's congress rule here and that will not necessarily work and there will be good chance of conflict in the congress at US.

10/23/2015
Irving/TX
Leslie P.
Bradley/Nimitz
No, the federal age and citizenship requirements for Congress should not be changed. The requirements for Congress is reasonable and now several states want to change the requirements for congress. 18 year olds have less experience of the world and shouldn't be considered to hold a position in office because they do not know how the government function (greater chance of corruption). The older the representative or senator is the better because they'll have more experience. In my opinion, age does not affect the number of voters who vote in the ballot. If a candidate is well known by the people, that candidate will get most of the votes.Citizenship requirements should remain as it is because a foreigner shouldn't held position in office because they bring different ideas than ours and most aren't familiar with U.S government and rules.

10/23/2015
Irving/TX
Leslie
Bradley/Nimitz
No, the federal age and citizenship requirements for Congress should not be changed. The requirements for Congress is precise and now several states want to change the requirements for congress.

10/23/2015
Irving/Texas
Ryan
Bradley/Nimitz
The requirements for Congress are certainly very lenient in America, and I firmly believe there is little need to change these requirements. The age requirement of twenty-five is understandable, as I would want the individuals representing me in Congress to have a wealth of life experience and to have had time to completely discover who they are as an individual before they represent an entire group. The age limit for the Senate should remain the same as well, since there is more power in a Senate seat than a House seat, I would want my Senators to be very experienced in policy making and to have already built up a reputation in Washington. Obviously, the citizenship requirement should remain in effect, as I would not want a non-American deciding the laws for Americans to follow. Both birthright and naturalized citizenship should be acceptable enough to run for Congress.

10/22/2015
Irving/TX
Luis M
Bradley/Nimitz
The requirements for Congress are pretty straight forward, but now people want to change those rules because congressman can get to powerful. A congressman age requirements is the most important one because the older the representative or senator is the better experience he will have in Congress, it's not good for an 18 year old to be a member of Congress. Being a U.S citizen is an important factor for running for congress. If a person who is not from this country runs for congress, they may have different views that are not American type. Many states have representatives that have been in power for a long time like in Texas, but imagine if a young mayor or senator comes into play, the experience would not be there and decisions will be hard for them.

10/22/2015
Irving/Texas
Julia A
Bradley/Nimitz
No, The federal age and citizenship requirements for congress should not be changed.The age requirements helps people to have a good understanding of how things works in the country.Young people should not become candidates because they still have to know more about how everything works .This is also because young people don't have much experience in the real world. Citizenship requirements should not be removed because a being a citizen of US he/she have more understanding and knowledge about how everything works in the country.

10/22/2015
Irving/TX
Eric
Bradley/Nimitz
The requirements for becoming a member of congress are necessary to keep congress legitimate. Citizenship is important because of the fact that it keeps nationalists from other countries from getting the chance to harm the politics of the US. The age requirements are also important because a person who barely became an adult most likely wouldn't have as much knowledge, or experience in politics as a middle aged adult. Though having a younger candidate may promote younger voters to vote, it isn't the smartest idea. Citizenship requirements should be kept the same because even though by weakening them it may help represent the population of immigrants better, it may also hurt the integrity of congress because it's not full of what many people would consider true citizens.

10/22/2015
Irving/Texas
Aron
Bradley/Nimitz
No, the requirements should stay the same to run for Congress. The age requirement allows people to get a developed education and have a better understanding of how the country works, especially for the Senate where each member holds more power in comparison to the House. Citizenship requirments do the same, ensureing that those who enter the U.S. have a chance of understanding the country and it's complex political system and to prevent prejudice and ideologies of the homeland that they came from.

10/20/2015
Murrieta, CA
Jakob
Mr. Jabro - Creekside High school
No, the requirements should not be changed because if you think about. What if you a 19 year old that is running to be a Representative yeah he/she could have great ideas and all but the only thing is they have no life experience in the real world with out their parents support other than one year. I also do believe there should also be another requirement added which should be that have to serve at least 4 years in the U.S Military.

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