Age Before Fundamental Right? Resolving The Contradiction Presented by an Age Restriction on Running for Executive Offices in Montana's Constitution

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Barry Law Review


The Montana Constitution guarantees that "[t]he rights of persons under 18 years of age shall include, but not be limited to, all the fundamental rights of this Article unless specifically precluded by laws which enhance the protection of such persons." Adults receive similarly strong protections. According to Article II, Section 15, of the Montana Constitution, "[a] person 18 years of age or older is an adult for all purposes," except for legislated limits on the legal age to purchase alcohol. It follows that all Montanans have a constitutional claim to the fundamental right that "[a]ll elections shall be free and open, and no power ... shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage." Yet, that same Constitution denies all Montanans under the age of 25 the full exercise of that fundamental right because the Constitution bars them from legally voting for themselves as candidates for various state offices. No person under the age of 25 at the time of their election may run for "the office of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, or auditor." This article argues that this contradiction cannot stand. The Montana Constitution cannot at once guarantee fundamental rights to all Montanans while also causing a significant percentage of the population an irreparable injury when it comes to exercising that right. It is far from unpredictable that a Montanan under the age of 25 will run for governor or one of the other executive offices with an age requirement. Given the likelihood of such a challenge, this article aims to provide the Montana Supreme Court with a rationale for eliminating the age requirement.

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