May 23, 2019
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Can lower age requirements get more young Mainers to run for office?

| BDN
| BDN
A screenshot of Saira Blair's appearance on Fox News in May 2014. Blair, 18, is the youngest state legislator in the country. She's a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn is proposing to amend the Maine Constitution to lower the age of candidacy for both the state House and Senate to 18 years old and 21 years old, respectively.

If 18-year-olds are old enough to be sent to Afghanistan, they’re old enough to be sent to Augusta, Brakey, Maine’s youngest state senator, said during a public hearing on his proposal, LD 80, according to the Sun Journal. The age thresholds currently in the state constitution are 25 for the Senate and 21 for the House.

Brakey noted that 15 states allow 18-year-olds to run for the state House, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Both states make exceptions for the Senate; in New Hampshire no one younger than 30 can hold this office, and in Massachusetts no one younger than 21 can be elected to the upper chamber.

But even though some states have lower age requirements on the books, it doesn’t mean those legislatures are any younger.

Adam R. Brown, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, compiled data for the age of state legislators in 2011, the most recent year for which this data has been compiled. Here are a few of his findings:

— National average age of legislators in the state House: 56

— National average age in the state Senate: 57

— Average age of legislators in the Maine House: 55

— Average age in the Maine Senate: 54

Four years later, in the 127th Maine Legislature, the average ages are 54 and 61, respectively.

Brown’s findings show that even with a lower age of candidacy, the average age of legislators in New Hampshire and Massachusetts is not necessarily below the national average:

— Average age of legislators in the New Hampshire House: 65

— Average age in the New Hampshire Senate: 59

— Average age of legislators in the Massachusetts House: 52

— Average age in the Massachusetts Senate: 55

Even with higher ages of eligibility, young legislators are running and making their mark in Maine. Brakey is joined by 29-year-old state Sens. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, and Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls. In the Maine House is 21-year-old Rep. Anthony Edgecomb, R-Fairfield. In 2013, House Republicans tapped one of their youngest, then-23-year-old Rep. Alex Willette of Mapleton, as their assistant floor leader.

But who is the youngest legislator in the U.S.? That honor goes to 18-year-old Saira Blair, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. She took office in 2014.



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