Political Education

Why Can’t a Twenty-One Year old Run for the US House of Representatives?

Could a twenty-one year old ever run for the US House of Representatives? I mean that individual has been a voter for the last three years.

Article I Section 2 of the US Constitution states,

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Article II Section 3 of the US Constitution states,

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

On Election Day one must be twenty-five to be elected to the House of Representatives or one must be thirty to be elected to the Senate. This doesn’t mean the rules haven’t been bent. William C.C. Claiborne served two terms in the US House of Representatives for the state of Tennessee 1797-1801. He wasn’t clear about his age when describing it to George Washington, and at that point it wasn’t easy to verify someone’s personal information. He was somewhere between 22 and 24 years old when taking office, and if we believe his gravestone he was 23. The other man to skirt these rules was Daniel Pope Cook. Cook’s age wasn’t discussed at the time but he was either 24 or 25 at the beginning of his term. Cook served Illinois from 1819-1823. Since then nobody else has skirted the age requirement for the house of representatives. The current youngest member of the House of Representatives is Madison Cawthorn was was elected at 25 years 155 days from the state of North Carolina.

In the Senate we have four men who has skirted the age requirement. Henry Clay, who only served two months (December 1806- March 1807) in the Senate, was 29 years 261 days old when he took his seat, so pretty close to 30. Armistead Mason was 28 years 171 day when he took his seat from January 1816- March 1817. It was known at the time that he was Constitutionally underage. John J Critteden was 29 yeas 175 days when he took office from March 1817-November 1818. The governor didn’t realize Critteden was underage and once he did he recalled him back to Kentucky. Creittenden served in the Senate later on in life. John Eaton was 28 yeas 151 days when he took his seat from November 1818- March 1821. The current youngest member of the Senate is Jon Ossoff from the state of Georgia who was 33 years and 339 days when elected to the Senate.

What all of these men had in common when they took office underage was that birth records were no recorded as well as they are today and there weren’t as many documents a person could look up to verify a politician’s age. In this day in age with easily searchable records and social media there is no way for a person to skirt the age requirement for Congress.

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