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Age of candidacy is the minimum age at which a person can legally qualify to hold certain elected government offices. In many cases, it also determines the age at which a person may be eligible to stand for an election or be granted ballot access.

The first known example of a law enforcing age of candidacy was the Lex Villia Annalis, a Roman law enacted in 180 BCE which set the minimum ages for senatorial magistrates.[1]

Controversies


Many youth rights groups view current age of candidacy requirements as unjustified age discrimination.[2] Occasionally people who are younger than the minimum age will run for an office in protest of the requirement or because they don't know that the requirement exists. On extremely rare occasions, young people have been elected to offices they do not qualify for and have been deemed ineligible to assume the office.

In 1934, Rush Holt of West Virginia was elected to the Senate of the United States at the age of 29. Since the U.S. Constitution requires senators to be at least 30, Holt was forced to wait until his 30th birthday, six months after the start of the session, before being sworn in.[3]

In 1954, Richard Fulton won election to the Tennessee Senate. Shortly after being sworn in, Fulton was ousted from office because he was 27 years old at the time. The Tennessee State Constitution required that senators be at least 30.[4] Rather than hold a new election, the previous incumbent, Clifford Allen, was allowed to resume his office for another term. Fulton went on to win the next State Senate election in 1956 and was later elected to the US House of Representatives where he served for 10 years.

In 1964 Congressman Jed Johnson, Jr. of Oklahoma was elected to the 89th Congress in the 1964 election while still aged 24 years. However, he became eligible for the House after turning 25 on his birthday, December 27, 1964, 7 days before his swearing in, making him the youngest legally elected and seated member of the United States Congress. [5]

In South Carolina, two Senators aged 24 were elected, but were too young according to the State Constitution: Mike Laughlin in 1969 and Bryan Dorn (later a US Congressman) in 1941. They were seated anyway.[6]

On several occasions, the Socialist Workers Party (USA) has nominated candidates too young to qualify for the offices they were running for. In 1972, Linda Jenness ran as the SWP presidential candidate, although she was 31 at the time. Since the U.S. Constitution requires that the President and Vice President be at least 35 years old, Jenness was not able to receive ballot access in several states in which she otherwise qualified.[7] Despite this handicap, Jenness still received 83,380 votes.[8] In 2004, the SWP nominated Arrin Hawkins as the party's vice-presidential candidate, although she was 28 at the time. Hawkins was also unable to receive ballot access in several states due to her age.[9]

Reform efforts


In the United States, many groups have attempted to lower age of candidacy requirements in various states. In 1994, South Dakota voters rejected a ballot measure that would have lowered the age requirements to serve as a State Senator or State Representative from 25 to 18. In 1998, however, they approved a similar ballot measure that reduced the age requirements for those offices from 25 to 21.[10] In 2002, Oregon voters rejected a ballot measure that would have reduced the age requirement to serve as a State Representative from 21 to 18.

During the early 2000s, the British Youth Council and other groups successfully campaigned to lower age of candidacy requirements in the United Kingdom.[11] The age of candidacy was reduced from 21 to 18 in England, Wales and Scotland on 1 January 2007,[12] when section 17 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 entered into force.[13]

International standards


International electoral standards which are defined in the International Public Human Rights Law, allow restricting candidacy on the basis of age. The interpretation of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights offered by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the General Comment 25 states "Any conditions which apply to the exercise of the rights protected by article 25 (of the ICCPR) should be based on objective and reasonable criteria. For example, it may be reasonable to require a higher age for election or appointment to particular offices than for exercising the right to vote, which should be available to every adult citizen."[14]

In various countries


In Australia a person must be aged 18 or over to stand for election to public office at federal, state or local government level.

The youngest ever member of the House of Representatives was 20-year-old Wyatt Roy elected in the 2010 federal election after the Electoral Act 1918 was amended (in 1973) to reduce the age of candidacy for that office from 21 to 18.

In Austria, a person must be 18 years of age or older to stand in elections to the European Parliament or National Council.[15] The Diets of regional Länder are able to set a minimum age lower than 18 for to be in the polls in elections to the Diet itself as well as to municipal councils in the Land.[16] In presidential elections the candidacy age is 35.

Any Belgian who has reached the age of 18 years can stand for election for the Chamber of Representatives, can become a member of the Senate, or can be elected in one of the regional parliaments. This is regulated in the Constitution (Art. 64) and in the Special Law on the Reform of the Institutions.

According to the Constitution of Belize, a person must be at least 18 years old to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives and must be at least 30 to be Speaker of the House. A person must be at least 18 years old to be appointed to the Senate and must be at least 30 to be President or Vice-President of the Senate. As only members of the House of Representatives are eligible to be appointed Prime Minister, the Prime Minister must be at least 18 years old. A person must also be at least 18 years old to be elected to a village council.[17]

The Brazilian Constitution (Article 14, Section 3 (VI)) defines 35 years as the minimum age for someone to be elected President, Vice-President or Senator; 30 years for state Governor or Vice-Governor; 21 for Federal or State Deputy, Mayor or Vice-Mayor; and 18 for city Councilman.[18]

In Canada, to be eligible to run for elected office one must be a minimum of 18 years or older on the day of the election.[19]

However, to be appointed to the Senate (Upper House), one must be at least 30 years of age, must possess land worth at least $4,000 in the province for which they are appointed, and must own real and personal property worth at least $4,000, above their debts and liabilities.

In Chile the minimum age required to be elected President of the Republic is 35 years on the day of the election. Before the 2005 reforms the requirement was 40 years, and from 1925 to 1981 it was 30 years. For senators it is 35 years (between 1981 and 2005 it was 40 years) and for deputies it is 21 years (between 1925 and 1970 it was 35 years).[20]

In China the minimum age to be elected as president or vice-president is 45.[21]

In Cyprus the minimum age to be elected president is 35 years.

In the Czech Republic, a person must be at least 18 years old to be elected in local elections. A person must be at least 21 years old to be elected to the lower house of the Czech Parliament or to the European Parliament and 40 years old to be a member of the upper house (Senate) of the Parliament[22] or the President of the Czech Republic.

In Denmark, any adult 18 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected in any public election.

In Estonia, any citizen 18 years of age or older can be elected in local elections, and 21 years or older in parliamentary elections. The minimum age for the President of Estonia is 40.[23]

In France, any citizen 18 years of age or older can be elected to the lower house of Parliament, and 24 years or older for the Senate. The minimum age for the President of France is 18.

In Germany, any citizen 18 years of age or older can be elected in national, regional or local elections. The only exception is the Landtag election in Hesse where a minimum age of 21 is required.[24] The minimum age for the President is 40.

In Greece, those aged 25-years-old and over who hold Greek citizenship are eligible to stand and be elected to the Hellenic Parliament.[25]

In Hong Kong a person must be at least 21 to be candidate in a district council or Legislative Council election. A person must be at least 40 to be candidate in the Chief Executive election, and also at least 40 to be candidate in the election for the President of the Legislative Council from among the members of the Legislative Council.

For the office of President, any Icelandic citizen who has reached the age of 35 and fulfills the requirement necessary to vote in elections to the Althing is eligible to be elected President.[26]

In India a person must be at least:

Criticism has been on the rise to decrease the age of candidacy in India. Young India Foundation has been working on a campaign to decrease the age of candidacy in India for MPs and MLAs to better reflect the large young demographic of India.[27]

In Indonesia a person must be at least:

  • 35 to be President or Vice President as specified in the Constitution of Indonesia
  • 30 to be Governor or Lieutenant Governor, as specified in the 2004 Regional Government Act
  • 25 to be Regent, Vice Regent, Mayor, or Deputy Mayor, as specified in the 2004 Regional Government Act
  • 21 to be Senator or Representative in both national and local parliament, as specified in the 2008 Election Act

In Israel one must be at least 21 to become a member of the Knesset (Basic Law: The Knesset section 6(a)) or a municipality. When the Prime Minister was directly elected, one must have been a member of the Knesset who is at least 30 to be a candidate for Prime Minister. Every Israeli Citizen (including minors) can be appointed as a Government Minister, or elected as President of Israel, but the latter role is mostly ceremonial and elected by the Parliament.

In Italy, a person must be at least 50 to be President of the Republic, 40 to be a Senator, and 25 to be a Deputy, as specified in the 1947 Constitution of Italy. 18 years of age is sufficient, however, to be elected member of the Council of Regions, Provinces, and Municipalities (Communes).

In Iran a person must be at least 21 years old to run for president.[28]

The Iraqi constitution states that a person must be at least 40 years old to run for president[29] and 35 years old to be Prime Minister.[30] The Iraqi Election Law No. 45 of 2013 states that a person must be 30 years old to run for the House of Representatives.[31] There are proposals by various MP's to amend the Law and reduce the age from 30 to 25.

The 1937 Constitution of Ireland requires the President to be at least 35 and members of the Oireachtas (legislature) to be 21.[32][33] Members of the European Parliament for Ireland must also be 21.[33][34] Members of local authorities must be 18, reduced from 21 in 1973.[33][35] The 1922–1937 Constitution of the Irish Free State required TDs (members of the Dáil, lower house) to be 21,[36] whereas Senators had to be 35 (reduced to 30 in 1928).[37] The Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015 proposed to lower the presidential age limit to 21.[38] However, this proposal was rejected by 73% of the voters.

In Japan a person must be at least:[39]

In Malaysia, any citizen 21 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected to the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Undangan Negeri. Minimum age for the Senator is 30 by constitution.

In Mexico, a person must be at least 35 to be President, 25 to be a Senator, or 21 to be a Congressional Deputy, as specified in the 1917 Constitution of Mexico.

In the Netherlands, any adult 18 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected in any public election.

In New Zealand the minimum age to be Prime Minister of New Zealand is 18 years old. Citizens and permanent residents who are enrolled as an elector are eligible to be a candidate for election as a Member of Parliament.

In Nigeria, a person must be at least 35 years of age to be elected President or Vice President, 35 to be a Senator, 30 to be a State Governor, and 25 to be a Representative in parliament or Member of the States' House of Assembly.

In North Korea, any person eligible to vote in elections to the Supreme People's Assembly is also eligible to stand for candidacy. The age for both voting and candidacy is 17.[40]

In Norway, any adult can become a candidate and be elected in any public election, from the calendar year that he or she turns 18 years.

In Pakistan, a person must be at least 45 years old to be President. A person must be at least 25 years old to be a member of the provincial assembly or national assembly.

In Singapore a person must be at least 45 years old to run for president.[43]

Section 47, Clause 1 of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa states that "Every citizen who is qualified to vote for the National Assembly is eligible to be a member of the Assembly", defaulting to Section 46 which "provides for a minimum voting age of 18 years" in National Assembly elections; Sections 106 and 105 provide the same for provincial legislatures.

In South Korea, a person must be at least 40 years old to be President. A person must be at least 25 years old to be the member of the National Assembly or to be Mayor or Governor.[44]

Spain has two legislative chambers of Parliament, a lower house and an upper house. These are the Congress of Deputies (lower house) and the Senate of Spain (upper house) respectively. The minimum age requirement to stand and to be elected to either house is 18 years of age.[45]

In Sweden, any citizen at least 18 years old, who resides, or who has resided in the realm can be elected to parliament.[46] Citizens of Sweden, the Europeans Union, Norway or Iceland aged 18 and over may be elected to county or municipal council. Citizens of other countries may also be elected to council, provided they have resided in the realm for at least three years.[47]

In Switzerland, any citizen aged 18 or over can become a candidate and be elected in any federal election.

In the Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan) the minimum age to be elected as president or vice-president is 40.

In Thailand the minimum age to be elected to the National Assembly is 25 years.

The 1876 constitution set the age for parliamentary elections as 30. This remained unchanged until 13 October 2006, when it was lowered to 25 through a constitutional amendment. In 2017, it was further lowered to 18, the same as the voting age.[48]

The Prime Minister of Turkey has to be a member of the parliament, hence it has the same requirements as parliamentary eligibility. The age of candidacy for the President is 18. Due to new laws being voted in as said Prime Minister is related to parliament and in order to be in parliament you have to be 18 and the government of Turkey said that 18 will be the age for when you can run for prime minister.

In the United Kingdom, a person must be aged 18 or over to stand in elections to all parliaments, assemblies, and councils at the European, UK, devolved, or local level. This age requirement also applies in elections to any individual elective public office; the main example is that of an elected mayor, whether of London or a local authority. There are no higher age requirements for particular positions in public office. Candidates are required to be aged 18 on both the day of nomination and the day of the poll. This was reduced from 21 by the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

In the United States, a person must be aged 35 or over to be President or Vice President. To be a Senator, a person must be aged 30 or over. To be a Representative, a person must be aged 25 or older. This is specified in the U.S. Constitution. Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative.[49] Some states have a minimum age requirement to hold any elected office (usually 21 or 18).

In Venezuela, a person must be at least 30 to be President or Vice President,[50] 21 to be a deputy for the National Assembly[51] and 25 to be the Governor of a state.[52]

Comparison chart


Dashes indicate that the position or house does not exist in that particular country, such as countries that are unicameral.

See also


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