The XXVIth Amendment
The extended debate on lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 first started during World War II and escalated sharply during the Vietnam War. The phrase “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” is traced back to the WWII decision to lower the draft age to 18, meaning the majority of those drafted lacked the right to vote. The issue became even more heated during the Vietnam War, when large numbers of men were being drafted and sent to Vietnam without the right to vote for the government sending them. Congress’ attempt to address the issue was included in an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which set the voting age at 18 for all federal, state and local elections. This law, signed on June 22, 1970, was successfully challenged by Oregon and Texas before the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress exceeded its powers in setting the age limits in state and local elections. (Biskupic) This created the potential logistical nightmare of separate voting rules for federal vs. state/local elections, leaving a Constitutional Amendment as the obvious solution. On March 10, 1971, the Senate voted 94-0 in favor of the amendment that lowered the voting age (in all elections) to 18.(Reuters) The House of Representatives followed suit with its approval (401-19) on March 23, 1971. The amendment was signed into law on July 5, 1971 following its ratification by the required three-fourths of State Legislatures.* Section one of the 26th Amendment simply states “The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” The second section gave Congress the power to enforce the amendment.(Reuters) Final ratification took only 107 days -- the shortest ratification period in U.S history -- and set the stage for 18 year olds to vote in the 1972 Presidential elections. Since the targeted...
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