The minimum age for being elected to the position of a US senator is 30, while the minimum age for voters is 18. Similar restrictions exist for legislators in other countries, with a few exceptions.

What is the justification behind requiring that people must reach a certain age before getting elected? Doesn't this discriminate against young citizens?

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    What kind of justification do you want? Many people can justify it many different ways. There are likely different moral theories that justify it, but there are probably also statements by different people at the time those rules were adopted. There could also be legal justifications in various countries. Apr 24, 2017 at 13:44
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    The very notion of "discriminating against young citizens" presupposes that they have a right to hold office. When you're exercising power over others by enacting legislation, or ratifying treaties that have the same authority as Constitutional amendments, or the Justices who interpret the Constitution, we're not talking about your personal rights anymore. You can screw things up for everyone. So requiring someone to build a track record as a responsible adult for a mere dozen years (two Senate terms) before giving them that authority seems prudent. Apr 24, 2017 at 21:10
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    @MontyHarder wouldn't the same argument apply for voting then? Why should young people get a vote? Apr 24, 2017 at 21:13
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    You should ask yourself whether all kinds of discrimination are bad. (That is a philosophical question not appropriate for this site, of course.) The age limit on voting itself is also a form of discrimination. Would you want a 5 year old voting for the president who promises free candy for everyone?
    – jpmc26
    Apr 25, 2017 at 1:28
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    @JonathanReez: You vote to voice your own opinion. You run for office to enact your constituents' opinions. So no, they're not the same.
    – user541686
    Apr 25, 2017 at 9:28

2 Answers 2


Justifications will vary from place to place. You mention the US example in your question, and this answer presents the justification that the US founders gave for this part of the US Constitution.

Regarding the age-30 requirement for US Senators, Federalist 62 says:

The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages

This is discussed again in Federalist 64, along with the age-35 requirement for President:

By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.

Yes, by definition, this discriminates against younger people, but as these requirements are listed in the Constitution, that discrimination is constitutional discrimination.

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    Any idea regarding the rest of the world? The question isn't specific to the US. Apr 24, 2017 at 14:29
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    I'd like to point out that the word "senate" derives from "senex" which is Latin for "old" or "elder", which is what the Romans appeared to have in mind when they called a particular council chamber of elders "senatus". Apr 24, 2017 at 18:46
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    It also give us the word "senile". Just sayin' ;-)
    – Mawg
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:06

In the US there is no "justification". The two ages were put in place in two completely different eras for completely unrelated purposes.

The Latin root for Senate, Senex, means "old man". The initial idea behind the US Senate was that it was supposed to be populated by the two wisest men in each state (preferably picked by state leaders, not a popular vote).

From Federalist 62:

The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a longer period of citizenship. . . . The propriety of these distinctions, is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust; which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires, at the same time, that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages.

So that's where the minimum of 30 years came from. The framers did not feel like anyone younger was liable to have acquired the level of wisdom the office requires.

The current US voting age was set by a Constitutional Amendment in 1971. There was an ongoing draft for the Vietnam war at that time. The general argument for that age was that it is the same as the draft age. It was felt that those old enough to be forced to fight for the country deserve the right to have a say in electing the leaders making those decisions.

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    What about the rest of the world? The question is not specific to the United States. Apr 24, 2017 at 16:50
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    @indigochild In Britain you can become an MP at the age of 18, the current voting age. So in theory you could become Prime Minister at 18. However the youngest in our history was William Pitt the Younger, who became PM in 1783 at the age of 24. David Cameron, who I think may be the second-youngest, became PM in 2010 at the age of 43 (Tony Blair also at 43, but a couple of days before his 44th birthday). To be a member of the House of Lords you need to be 21. But there are very few members under 40, though large numbers over the age of 90!
    – WS2
    Apr 24, 2017 at 17:06
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    @indigochild - The question specifically asked about the US senate in comparison to the electorate though, and in that specific case its is essentially a combo of the design of the Senate and a historical accident between two unrelated things. There is no "justification", so it must simply be explained how it came to be. I'll try to edit to clarify that.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 24, 2017 at 17:35

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