Apr 042007
Authors: James Holt

Colorado students may be able to enter political careers immediately after graduating if a current bill passes the Colorado senate.

House Concurrent Resolution 1002 would lower the age of candidacy, the age at which a person can be elected to legislative office, from 25 to 21.

The House passed the bill Friday by a vote of 46 to 18. It now awaits review by the Senate.

Ryan Biehle, a sophomore political science major at University of Colorado and co-director of legislative affairs for the University of Colorado Student Union, has been a leading lobbyist for the bill.

“It’s inherently contradictory for any legislator to ask for youth involvement in campaigns but not allow them in the process as well,” Biehle said. “It’s really not a fair process.”

Support for the bill has been bipartisan. Democratic Representative Michael Garcia, D-Arapahoe, is supporting the bill in the House, while Republican Senator, Steve Johnson R-Larimer, is supporting it in the Senate.

“We’ve had great support from both sides of the aisle,” Biehle said.

According to Biehle the bill has received “no substantial opposition.”

The main argument against the bill is that 21-year-olds are too immature to fulfill the position. Biehle says that if someone is truly too immature, that person will not be voted into office.

“Let the voters decide,” he said.

Rep. Garcia said it’s contradictory for Colorado to say that all adults must pay taxes, but only one group of adults can run for office.

“Age is an arbitrary indicator of ability to be a legislator,” he said. “I think there are some legislators now who are too immature.”

Bill Chaloupka, CSU professor and chair of the political science department, anticipates no negative results if the bill gets passed.

“Twenty-one year olds are eligible to vote, so it seems reasonable that they should be able to hold office,” he said. “There’s nothing magical about the No. 25.”

Chaloupka said that passing the bill would encourage younger citizens to start voting, particularly the 21- to 25-year-old demographic, which has low voting turnout.

“The data shows that once young people start voting they continue to vote,” he said.

The bill got its start with young voters when Biehle played a part in starting a group called Coloradoans for Equal Representation. Other groups got involved and started conversations about the bill last summer. Biehle is now one of the leading lobbyists for the bill.

“Anything that could enable youth to be more involved politically is a good thing,” said Luke Ragland, junior political science major and director of legislative affairs for ASCSU.

Originally, the goal was to lower the age of candidacy to 18, but an amendment raised the age to 21.

If passed, the bill will go into effect in 2010.

Staff writer James Holt can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Graphic: by the numbers

Age of Candidacy comparison:

– Colorado, 25

– Kentucky: 30 for Senate, 24 for House (Source: www.elect.ky.gov/candidate.htm)

– New Hampshire: 30 for Senate, 18 for House (Source: www.sos.nh.gov/assent.pdf)

– California: 18 for both (source: www.guidetogov.org/ca/state/overview.legislative.hmtl)

– Tennessee: 18 for both (www.knoxcounty.org/election.pdf/tn_qualifications.pdf)

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