Amendment V: Lowering age limits for state reps, senators

McKenna Harford
Sky Hi News

A typical 21-year-old in Colorado can buy alcohol, book a hotel room or gamble at a casino, but they can’t run for the state Legislature. A measure on this year’s ballot is looking to change that.

Amendment V would lower the required age to serve as a representative or senator from 25 to 21.

On a bipartisan level, two senators, Vicki Marble and Michael Merrifield, and two representatives, Kevin Van Winkle and Jovan Melton, sponsored the measure in the Legislature. It was approved for the ballot in May.

Proponents of the measure argue that a 21-year-old is legally an adult and excluding 21- to 24-year-olds serves no purpose since voters can determine for themselves whether a candidate is mature, able and competent enough to serve.

“I can remember being 21 and frustrated and thinking, ‘I can do a better job,’ or ‘I should have right to have my opinion be heard,’” Merrifield told The Denver Post last year. “Right now, we have a pretty fired-up segment of the population, and we’ve given them all the responsibilities of an adult. But we have not given them this particular right to represent themselves.”

Colorado’s current age requirement, along with Arizona and Utah, is the highest minimum age to serve in the house in the country. Three states have no minimum age requirement and 10 states have a minimum age requirement of 18 years.

Proponents also argue lowering the age would encourage civic engagement from younger residents of the state.

However, opponents feel that the current age requirement strikes a balance between youth and experience. They argue that younger candidates may lack the expertise and maturity to be effective legislators.

Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average age of Colorado legislators in 2015 was 55 years.

In 2008, a similar measure to lower the required age to 21, Referendum L, was on the Colorado ballot and failed with 53.5 percent of voters against the measure.

Amendment V needs 55 percent of the vote to pass.