JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri residents who have just gained the right to smoke, vote, and enlist in the army at the age of 18 would gain the right to run for alderman in some cities under a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Lant, R-Joplin. The bill changes the age of eligibility to run for this position from 21 to 18.
An alderman serves in a similar capacity to that of a city council member, functioning as a governing official who oversees city maintenance, grants, and a variety of other tasks necessary to the city’s progress. A fourth class city had a population of 500 to 2999 people at the time of incorporation.
Lant says that his legislation will help small towns with the problem of too few candidates and will drum up more residents willing to be involved within local politics.
“Many of our small towns struggle to find enough aldermen to run for office,” Lant said.
Dirk Deaton, an 18 year old citizen of Noel, Mo, a town of roughly 1800 people, spoke in agreement with Lant on Monday at a hearing for the legislation. Deaton said that more candidates were important but also that the bill was necessary to expand upon the rights owed to 18 year-olds who can already vote and enlist in the army.
Rep. Michael Frame, D-Eureka, raised a similar point about liberties for the younger generation.
“I don’t know why we are denying them the right to run for office if they can vote for president,” Frame said.
Centralia alderman Farris Sanders said he did not believe that this legislation would change much in his hometown of approximately 4000 people.
“I believe the younger generation is not as into politics,” Sanders said. “In our city, I don’t think it would affect anything.”
Sanders said that in towns of Columbia or St. Louis, and other larger cities, the legislation might have a larger effect because of a greater college age population with an increased interest in politics.
The Centralia alderman also expressed concern over 18 year-olds' level of maturity.
“I realize that they are old enough to go to the military, but they go to learn responsibility,” Sanders said.
Lawmakers set the age to run at 21 when the voting age was also 21. Since then, the United States 26th Constitutional Amendment passed to change the voting age to 18.
"That was then and this is now," Deaton said.