Who Can Become a Candidate for State Legislator

4/22/2015

Candidate Qualifications

To run for a state legislative seat, a potential candidate must meet certain qualifications. These qualifications generally fall into five categories: age, district residency, state residency, how long the potential candidate has been a U.S. citizen, and whether or not the potential candidate is a registered voter. These vary state-by-state. Generally, states define age and residency requirements for anyone who will serve in the legislature. These then govern who may run.

Additionally, some states prohibit people who have been convicted of certain crimes from serving as a legislator. Some other states do not prohibit candidates with certain convictions from serving, but they do require that these candidates disclose this information when they file to become a candidate  For more information on candicacy and convictions, visit the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

This page and the information contained within is not intended to be a guide for potential candidates. In order to obtain information of the qualifications required to run for office, please consult your local or state election officials, state election regulation authority, and an attorney.

Below is a chart detailing the candidate qualification for state legislators in all 50 states.

qualification for state legislators in all 50 states.

State

Office

Age

District Resident

State Resident

U.S. Citizen

Registered Voter

Alabama

Senate

25

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

Alaska

Senate

25

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

Arizona

Senate

25

1 year

3 years

Yes

-

House

25

1 year

3years

Yes

-

Arkansas

Senate

25

1 year

2 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

1 year

2 years

Yes

Yes

California

Senate

18

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

House

18

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

Colorado

Senate

25

1 year

-

Yes

-

House

25

1 year

-

Yes

-

Connecticut

Senate

21

Yes

-

-

-

House

21

Yes

-

-

-

Delaware

Senate

27

1 year

3 years

Yes

-

House

24

1 year

3 years

Yes

-

Florida

Senate

21

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

Georgia

Senate

25

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

Hawaii

Senate

18

Yes

3 years

-

-

House

18

Yes

3 years

-

-

Idaho

Senate

21

-

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

21

-

1 year

-

-

Illinois

Senate

21

2 years

2 years

Yes

-

House

21

2 years

-

-

-

Indiana

Senate

25

1 year

2 years

Yes

-

House

21

1 year

2 years

Yes

-

Iowa

Senate

25

60 days

1 year

Yes

-

House

21

60 days

1 year

Yes

-

Kansas

Senate

18

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

House

18

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Kentucky

Senate

30

1 year

6 years

-

-

House

24

1 year

2 years

-

-

Louisiana

Senate

18

1 year

2 years

-

-

House

18

1 year

2 years

-

-

Maine

Senate

25

3 months

1 year

Yes

-

House

21

3 months

1 year

Yes

-

Maryland

Senate

25

6 months

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

21

6 months

1 year

Yes

Yes

Massachusetts

Senate

18

At election

5 years

Yes

Yes

House

18

1 year

-

Yes

Yes

Michigan

Senate

21

Yes

Yes

Yes

-

House

21

Yes

Yes

Yes

-

Minnesota

Senate

21

6 months

1 year

Yes

-

House

21

6 months

1 year

Yes

-

Mississippi

Senate

25

2 years

4 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

2 years

4 years

Yes

Yes

Missouri

Senate

30

1 year

-

Yes

Yes

House

24

1 year

-

Yes

Yes

Montana

Senate

18

6 months

1 year

-

-

House

18

6 months

1 year

-

-

Nebraska

Senate

21

1 year

1 year

-

-

- - - - - -

Nevada

Senate

21

30 days

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

21

30 days

1 year

-

-

New Hampshire

Senate

30

At election

7 years

-

-

House

18

At election

2 years

-

-

New Jersey

Senate

30

At election

4 years

-

-

House

21

2 years

-

Yes

-

New Mexico

Senate

25

Yes

Yes

Yes

-

House

21

Yes

Yes

Yes

-

New York

Senate

18

1 year

5 years

Yes

Yes

House

18

1 year

5 years

Yes

Yes

North Carolina

Senate

25

1 year

2 years

Yes

Yes

House

-

1 year

-

Yes

Yes

North Dakota

Senate

-

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

-

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

Ohio

Senate

-

1 year

-

-

-

House

-

1 year

-

-

-

Oklahoma

Senate

25

Yes

-

Yes

Yes

House

21

Yes

-

Yes

Yes

Oregon

Senate

21

1 year

-

Yes

-

House

21

1 year

-

Yes

-

Pennsylvania

Senate

25

1 year

-

Yes

-

House

21

1 year

-

Yes

-

Rhode Island

Senate

18

-

30 days

Yes

Yes

House

18

-

30 days

Yes

Yes

South Carolina

Senate

21

Yes

-

Yes

-

House

21

Yes

-

Yes

-

South Dakota

Senate

21

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

-

2 years

Yes

Yes

Tennessee

Senate

30

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

House

21

1 year

3 years

Yes

Yes

Texas

Senate

26

1 year

5 years

Yes

-

House

21

1 year

2 years

Yes

-

Utah

Senate

25

6 months

3 years

Yes

Yes

House

25

6 months

3 years

Yes

Yes

Vermont

Senate

-

1 year

2 years

-

-

House

-

1 year

2 years

-

-

Virginia

Senate

21

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

21

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

Washington

Senate

18

-

-

Yes

Yes

House

18

-

-

Yes

Yes

West Virginia

Senate

25

-

-

-

-

House

18

-

-

-

-

Wisconsin

Senate

18

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

House

18

At election

1 year

Yes

Yes

Wyoming

Senate

25

1 year

Yes

Yes

-

House

21

1 year

Yes

Yes

-

 

Becoming a Party Candidate

Candidates typically choose from three choices when deciding how to run for office. They choose to be a major party candidate, a minor party candidate or an independent candidate. This choice defines not only how the public views the candidate, but also the regulations that govern the campaign. For example, the number of signatures that each candidate must file with his or her petition varies depending on what type of candidate is using the petition.

It is not always as simple as just picking what type of candidate one wants to be. States also have regulations that determine when one can run as a party candidate and when one can run as a different type of candidate than the party in which the candidate is registered. For example, in some states one must be a registered party member for up to six months before running as a party candidate in that party. In other states, a potential independent candidate must be unaffiliated from a party for a specified number of months before registering as an independent candidate.

Ballot access as a major party candidate also differs from ballot access as a minor party candidate. Each choice brings with it its own set of regulations and rules.

Ballot access and the varying requirements for the different types of candidates are decisions made by state legislatures. The following is a short list of the major topics that legislation may address:

  • Differences in petition signature requirements between major party candidates and minor party candidates. Some states require a higher number of petition signatures from minor party candidates than from major party candidates.
  • The required procedures for establishing a minor party.
  • Differences in ballot access requirements for independent candidates compared to those for candidates from minor and major parties.
  • State funding of party primaries.

About This NCSL Project

NCSL tracks election and campaign issues in four major categories: election laws and procedures, campaign finance, initiative and referendum, and election results and analysis. We provide comprehensive 50-state research and analysis on a wide variety of topics related to these issues.

For redistricting, NCSL provides similar data that covers redistricting laws, commissions and litigation.

Additionally, NCSL's Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee works on issues that affect all states, including voting technology and redistricting systems and technology.

If you don't find the information you need, please contact our elections team at 303-364-7700 or elections-info@ncsl.org. NCSL staff can do specialized searches for legislators and legislative staff.

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