Backers of North Dakota congressional age limits get year to gather ballot signatures

FILE - The North Dakota House chamber and Capitol tower stand in Bismarck, N.D., June 14, 2023. Supporters of a proposed ballot measure for a congressional age limit in North Dakota have one year to gather enough signatures to prompt a public vote. Secretary of State Michael Howe on Friday, July 21, approved the petition format, kicking off the yearlong timeline for measure supporters to gather at least 31,164 signatures of North Dakota voters. (AP Photo/Jack Dura, File)

By JACK DURA Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would set congressional age limits in North Dakota have one year to gather enough signatures to put the matter to a public vote.

Secretary of State Michael Howe on Friday approved the petition format, starting the timeline for those behind the measure to gather the signatures of at least 31,164 North Dakota voters.

Jared Hendrix, who heads the group behind the measure, told The Associated Press the group is aiming to get it on the June 2024 primary election ballot.

“Our plan is to aggressively and quickly gather signatures before cold weather hits,” he said.

The deadline is Feb. 12, but if the measure’s backers submit signatures after that date, it would go to the November 2024 general election. The measure would amend the state’s constitution and would need a simple majority to pass.

Under the measure, no one who could turn 81 years old by the end of their term could be elected or appointed to the state’s U.S. House or Senate seats.

Several current and former North Dakota Republican lawmakers, including some of the most conservative, support the measure.

Hendrix, who led a successful gubernatorial and legislative term limits initiative last year, told the AP that supporters of the measure “believe in principle that there should be a retirement age for Congress,” citing the median age for retirement of all Americans being 64, “although many do work longer.”

One provision of the proposal calls for a “ballot advisory” that would note how old congressional candidates would be by the end of their term “in the event superior law requires age-limited candidates to appear on the ballot.”

North Dakota has a three-member congressional delegation and has had octogenarian officeholders in the past. U.S. Sen. Milton Young was 83 when he left office in 1981. U.S. Sen. Quentin Burdick died in office in 1992 at age 84.

It’s unclear if the proposed measure would stand up to the U.S. Constitution, which does not set maximum age limits.