DYER — The youngest current member of the Indiana House of Representatives, a 26-year-old from Lake County, is eager to pave the way for even younger lawmakers to follow in his footsteps.
State Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, will file legislation when the General Assembly convenes in January to begin the process of changing the Indiana Constitution so Hoosiers can be elected to the House or Senate beginning at age 18.
The Constitution currently requires a state representative be at least 21 years old and a state senator 25.
Chyung said those minimum ages tend to discourage young people from getting involved in state government, even as both political parties seek to promote civic education and participation.
"This is a way to communicate that young people are welcome at the table and that their opinions matter," Chyung said. "If you're 18 and you can fight and die for this country, and fight and die for freedom, then why can't you be a part of the lawmaking process?"
If the change is enacted, Chyung does not expect young Hoosier adults suddenly will take over the Statehouse.
He said it still will be up to voters to decide who ran the best campaign and who would be the best lawmaker.
"Having more options is where we're coming from," Chyung said.
Across the country, Chyung said eight states have 18 as their minimum age for representatives and senators, and three have no minimums. Altogether, 27 states have minimums lower than the 25 minimum age required to serve in the Indiana Senate.
The desire for change also crosses party lines. Chyung said 21-year-old Republican activist Megan Stoner, of Elwood, Indiana, approached him with the idea and he quickly saw the wisdom in it.
"She brought it to me and I thought that I don't care that you're a pro-Trump Republican, I think this is good policy and I think we can make some inroads as a bipartisan team and show that young people know how to work together — and that's sorely lacking these days," Chyung said.
Chyung so far has been less successful finding a GOP co-sponsor for his proposal in the Republican-controlled House, possibly because he represents a "super swing district that the Republicans want back next year, so they don't exactly want me to look effective," he said.
Nevertheless, Chyung vowed not to be deterred and to keep looking for opportunities to advance the proposal during the 10-week legislative session.
"I'm looking forward to the day that I'm no longer the youngest," he said.
Under the Constitution, a proposed amendment must be approved by the House and Senate, and approved again by both chambers following an election of all 100 state representatives, to be submitted to Hoosier voters for final ratification.