Too Young to Run: Candidate Age Requirements Vary by City
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 10, 2021)
Clawson, MI – If Stacey Gomoll lived a couple miles south in Royal Oak, she, at the age of 23, would be considered old enough to represent her fellow citizens on the City Commission. Like many cities throughout Oakland County, Royal Oak does not have any age requirement beyond being a registered voter, which in Michigan can happen at age 18.
However, Gomoll lives in Clawson, and there the City Charter requires a candidate to be at least 25 years of age.
Gomoll did not know the rule when she turned in petitions to run for City Council in the Nov. 2, 2021 election.
“It was unfortunate for me to learn that I’d have to drop out,” Gomoll told Oakland County Times. “When I began my campaign, I thought nothing of a possible age requirement standing in my way, considering a person has to be 21 years old to run for state office.”
In the United States a person must be 25 or older to be a Representative, 30 or older to be a Senator, and 35 or older to be President. In Michigan candidates must be 21 to run for a state level office. Locally, it varies. With a range from 18 to 25 years, it means depending on one’s zip code there it means a seven year gap in opportunity for younger citizens in some cities.
Gomoll majored in Political Science at Oakland University and graduated with honors. She currently works for State Senator and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jim Stamas as his Constituent Aide. Before that she was an intern with the Senate Majority Policy Office, and was a fellow under Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills.
“Although, I am younger I would have had the experience to do the job,” she said.
Joe Rozell, Director of Elections for Oakland County, told Oakland County Times “Each city in the county is unique. The filing requirements, such as age and the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot, can vary greatly between cities. Unlike townships, where the filing requirements are covered in state law, each city’s charter contains their specific requirements.”
In Rochester Hills, where Gomoll works, candidates need only be 18. Berkley, Hazel Park, and Southfield are among cities where 18 year olds can serve.
In Birmingham residents are required to have been a registered voter for a year, making 19 the youngest age possible to run.
Joining Clawson in having a 25 year age requirement are Ferndale and Huntington Woods.
The City Charter sets the rules, and it happens to be that this year there is also a ballot proposal on the ballot in Clawson to see if voters will approve a Charter Revision Commission. Clawson Mayor Reese Scripture, who is not seeking re-election, was asked about the charter and the age requirement.
“That is how the charter is written in 1940,” she said. “Many cities have age restrictions and unlike the requirement to own property, age restrictions have not been struck down in the courts, so we follow the charter until changed. I can’t explain the reason the ‘founding fathers’ put age 25.
“As far as efforts to change it, I advocated for an elected charter commission that will allow for residents to vote to form a charter commission and elect nine residents to rewrite the entire charter and take that proposed charter to a vote of all the residents. I convinced enough members in council meetings that it was a necessary thing to do and it passed. So forming a charter commission goes on the ballot in November and if residents vote it is time to update an 80 year old set of rules, many of which are not even legal anymore, then maybe the age 25 restriction is one they will reconsider and change it.”
Gomoll plans to continue being involved in the community, even if she can’t have a seat on the dais just yet. “I was excited at the prospect of serving my city and I look forward to running again in the future. I have lived in Clawson my entire life and I care a great deal about contributing toward the city’s progress,” she said.
“Moving forward I would be interested in seeing the age requirement be lowered, if not removed altogether. The age requirement discourages younger adults from running locally and limits the amount of potential talent in municipal races.”
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