Idaho is one of the youngest states in the country. We’re third youngest, right behind Texas (#2) and Utah (#1). The median age here is 34.6, according to the most recent Census. More than 30 percent of Idaho is made up of people 19 and younger.
Like most states, the people who make laws and set policy are much older than the general population. Idaho’s median, and average, age of a state legislator is 61. That’s older than the national average, which according to the National Conference of State Legislatures was 56 last year.
For the last month StateImpact Idaho has been emailing and calling state legislators elected to the 2013 session. We wanted to compile basic demographic information to better understand who our lawmakers are, and if they’re truly representative of Idaho’s population.
We asked everyone the same five questions; what is their birth date, education level, occupation, religion, and race or ethnicity. Some of our information came directly from lawmakers, some came from Project Vote Smart, the Idaho Legislature, and Nexis.
During the 2012 legislative session, Rep. Gayle Batt (R-Wilder) was Idaho’s youngest lawmaker at 35. She’s 36 this year and was pretty excited when she found out there are eight other legislators who are in their 30s.
Newly elected Representatives Brandon Hixon (R-Caldwell) and Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene) are tied for youngest at 31. Malek says it’s crucial for young people to get involved in politics, because its his generation that has a lot at stake in shaping policy over the next 20 years. “It’s been a retiree’s game at the state level,” says Malek. “It bodes well that young people are getting involved.”
This is also Malek’s first time in office. He lives in Coeur d’Alene and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Idaho before going on to the University of Idaho, where he received his law degree.
“I decided to run because I’m not willing to just stand by and let the future of the country, or the state, happen to me. I want to be part of it,” says Malek. He believes his age brings a different perspective to the Capitol. More than age, though, Malek thinks his background in criminal law, urban renewal projects, and community health centers will be a stronger influence.
A handful of legislators refused to confirm their birthdays or birth years that we gathered from other sources. One cited identity theft concerns, others simply declined. Sen. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) said he refuses to be categorized by demographic information. “We’re equal at 92 or 22,” Fulcher said.