State lawmakers are debating whether 18-year-olds should be allowed to run for public office in Nebraska.
“I can’t support this. For Pete’s sake, if we elected an 18-year-old governor, he wouldn’t be able to buy a beer to celebrate,” Sen. Dave Bloomfield, Hoskins, quipped during legislative floor debate on LR 26CA.
If approved by the Unicameral, voters would decide in November whether the age to be able to run for any public office in the state should be lowered to 18. Sen. Tyson Larson sponsors the measure.
Bloomfield said he might be persuaded to lower the age for those running for the legislature, but says allowing 18-year-olds to run for governor or Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court was going “a bridge too far.”
Supporters argued that if someone could serve in the military at age 18, they should be eligible to run for public office.
The youngest member of the Unicameral viewed the legislation differently than the oldest.
“When we set 21 as the age to run for legislature, 21 was the voting age. And for the first 40 years of our Unicameral or so, you could run for legislature as soon as you could vote,” Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln stated.
Hansen is 27. He ran for the legislature as a 25-year-old. He says research indicates the youngest person to be elected to the Unicameral was 22.
78-year-old Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the oldest member of the Unicameral, says 18 is too young.
“If I vote for something like this, I would be out of my mind. People can say, Ernie you’ve slipped into dementia. You need to go have an examination to see what’s going on in your mind, because you know better than that. Everybody in here knows better,” Chambers said during legislative floor debate. “If you’ve had an 18-year-old child, you wouldn’t turn that 18-year-old child loose to manage all of the affairs of the family. You wouldn’t do it.”
Debate on the measure will have to pick up next week. If the legislature approves it, it would be placed on the November ballot.