Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Twenty-sixth Amendment (Amendment XXVI) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from using age as a reason for denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States who are at least eighteen years old. It was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and ratified on July 1, 1971, the quickest ratification of an amendment in history.

Various public officials had supported lowering the voting age during the mid-20th century, but were unable to gain the legislative momentum necessary for passing a constitutional amendment. The drive to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 grew across the country during the 1960s, driven in large part by the military draft held during the Vietnam War, as well as the student activism movement. The draft conscripted young men between the ages of 18 and 21 into the armed forces, primarily the U.S. Army, to serve in or support military combat operations in Vietnam.[1] A common slogan of proponents of lowering the voting age was "old enough to fight, old enough to vote."

Congress lowered the national voting age to 18 in a 1970 bill that extended the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court subsequently held in the case of Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could not lower the voting age for state and local elections. Shortly after that ruling, Congress proposed and the states ratified the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which constitutionally enshrined voting rights for individuals between 18 and 21 years old.


Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.[2]


Prior legislation

Senator Harley Kilgore began advocating for a lowered voting age in 1941 in the 77th Congress.[3] Despite the support of fellow senators, representatives, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Congress failed to pass any national change. However, public interest in lowering the vote became a topic of interest at the local level. In 1943 and 1955 respectively, the Georgia and Kentucky legislatures passed measures to lower the voting age to 18.[4]

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1954 State of the Union address, became the first president to publicly support prohibiting age-based denials of suffrage for those 18 and older.[5] During the 1960s, both Congress and the state legislatures came under increasing pressure to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. This was in large part due to the Vietnam War, in which many young men who were ineligible to vote were conscripted to fight in the war, thus lacking any means to influence the people sending them off to risk their lives. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" was a common slogan used by proponents of lowering the voting age. The slogan traced its roots to World War II, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the military draft age to eighteen.

In 1963, the President's Commission on Registration and Voting Participation, in its report to President Johnson, further encouraged considering lowering the voting age. Historian Thomas H. Neale argues that the move to lower the voting age followed a historical pattern similar to other extensions of the franchise; with the escalation of the war in Vietnam, constituents were mobilized and eventually a constitutional amendment passed.[6]

In 1970, Senator Ted Kennedy proposed amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to lower the voting age nationally.[7] On June 22, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required the voting age to be 18 in all federal, state, and local elections.[8] In his statement on signing the extension, Nixon said:

Despite my misgivings about the constitutionality of this one provision, I have signed the bill. I have directed the Attorney General to cooperate fully in expediting a swift court test of the constitutionality of the 18-year-old provision.[9]

Subsequently, Oregon and Texas challenged the law in court, and the case came before the Supreme Court in 1970 as Oregon v. Mitchell.[10] By this time, four states had a minimum voting age below 21: Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Hawaii.[11][12]

Oregon v. Mitchell

During debate of the 1970 extension of the Voting Rights Act, Senator Ted Kennedy argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allowed Congress to pass national legislation lowering the voting age. In the 1966 decision of Katzenbach v. Morgan, the Supreme Court had ruled that "if Congress acts to enforce the 14th Amendment by passing a law declaring that a type of state law discriminates against a certain class of persons, the Supreme Court will let the law stand if the justices can 'perceive a basis' for Congress's actions".[13]

President Nixon disagreed with Kennedy. In a letter to the Speaker of the House and the House minority and majority leaders, he asserted that the issue is not whether the voting age should be lowered, but how; in his own interpretation of the Katzenbach case, Nixon argued that to include age as something discriminatory would be too big a stretch and voiced concerns that the damage of a Supreme Court decision to overturn the Voting Rights Act could be disastrous.[14]

In Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), the Supreme Court considered whether the voting-age provisions Congress added to the Voting Rights Act in 1970 were constitutional. The Court struck down the provisions that established 18 as the voting age in state and local elections. However, the Court upheld the provision establishing the voting age as 18 in federal elections. The Court was deeply divided in this case, and a majority of justices did not agree on a rationale for the holding.[15][16]

The decision resulted in states being able to maintain 21 as the voting age in state and local elections, but being required to establish separate voter rolls so that voters between 18 and 20 years old could vote in federal elections.[17]


Although the Twenty-sixth Amendment passed faster than any other constitutional amendment, about 17 states refused to pass measures to lower their minimum voting ages after Nixon signed the 1970 extension to the Voting Rights Act.[3] Opponents to extending the vote to youths questioned the maturity and responsibility of people at the age of 18. Professor William G. Carleton wondered why the vote was proposed for youth at a time when the period of adolescence had grown so substantially rather than in the past when people had more responsibilities at earlier ages.[18] Carleton further criticized the move to lower the vote citing American preoccupations with youth in general, exaggerated reliance on higher education, and equating technological savvy with responsibility and intelligence.[19] He denounced the military service argument as well, calling it a "cliche".[20] Considering the ages of soldiers in the Civil War, he asserted that literacy and education were not the grounds for limiting voting; rather, common sense and the capacity to understand the political system grounded voting age restrictions.[21]

James J. Kilpatrick, a political columnist, asserted that the states were "extorted into ratifying the Twenty-sixth Amendment".[22] In his article, he claims that by passing the 1970 extension to the Voting Rights Act, Congress effectively forced the States to ratify the amendment lest they be forced to financially and bureaucratically cope with maintaining two voting registers. George Gallup also mentions the cost of registration in his article showing percentages favoring or opposing the amendment, and he draws particular attention to the lower rates of support among adults aged 30–49 and over 50 (57% and 52% respectively) as opposed to those aged 18–20 and 21–29 (84% and 73% respectively).[23]

Proposal and ratification

26th Amendment Pg1of1 AC
The Twenty-sixth Amendment in the National Archives

Passage by Congress

On March 10, 1971, the Senate voted 94–0 in favor of proposing a Constitutional amendment to guarantee that the minimum voting age could not be higher than 18.[24] On March 23, 1971, the House of Representatives voted 401–19 in favor of the proposed amendment.[25]

Ratification by the states

Having been passed by the 92nd United States Congress, the proposed Twenty-sixth Amendment was sent to the state legislatures for their consideration. Ratification was completed on July 1, 1971, after the amendment had been ratified by the following thirty-eight states:[26]

  1. Connecticut: March 23, 1971
  2. Delaware: March 23, 1971
  3. Minnesota: March 23, 1971
  4. Tennessee: March 23, 1971
  5. Washington: March 23, 1971
  6. Hawaii: March 24, 1971
  7. Massachusetts: March 24, 1971
  8. Montana: March 29, 1971
  9. Arkansas: March 30, 1971
  10. Idaho: March 30, 1971
  11. Iowa: March 30, 1971
  12. Nebraska: April 2, 1971
  13. New Jersey: April 3, 1971
  14. Kansas: April 7, 1971
  15. Michigan: April 7, 1971
  16. Alaska: April 8, 1971
  17. Maryland: April 8, 1971
  18. Indiana: April 8, 1971
  19. Maine: April 9, 1971
  20. Vermont: April 16, 1971
  21. Louisiana: April 17, 1971
  22. California: April 19, 1971
  23. Colorado: April 27, 1971
  24. Pennsylvania: April 27, 1971
  25. Texas: April 27, 1971
  26. South Carolina: April 28, 1971
  27. West Virginia: April 28, 1971
  28. New Hampshire: May 13, 1971
  29. Arizona: May 14, 1971
  30. Rhode Island: May 27, 1971
  31. New York: June 2, 1971
  32. Oregon: June 4, 1971
  33. Missouri: June 14, 1971
  34. Wisconsin: June 22, 1971
  35. Illinois: June 29, 1971
  36. Alabama: June 30, 1971
  37. Ohio: June 30, 1971
  38. North Carolina: July 1, 1971

Having been ratified by three-fourths of the States (38), the Twenty-sixth Amendment became part of the Constitution. On July 5, 1971, the Administrator of General Services, Robert Kunzig, certified its adoption. President Nixon and Julianne Jones, Joseph W. Loyd Jr., and Paul S. Larimer of the "Young Americans in Concert" also signed the certificate as witnesses. During the signing ceremony, held in the East Room of the White House, Nixon talked about his confidence in the youth of America.

As I meet with this group today, I sense that we can have confidence that America's new voters, America's young generation, will provide what America needs as we approach our 200th birthday, not just strength and not just wealth but the 'Spirit of '76' a spirit of moral courage, a spirit of high idealism in which we believe in the American dream, but in which we realize that the American dream can never be fulfilled until every American has an equal chance to fulfill it in their own life.[27]

The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states, bringing the total number of ratifying states to forty-three:[26]

39. Oklahoma: July 1, 1971
40. Virginia: July 8, 1971
41. Wyoming: July 8, 1971
42. Georgia: October 4, 1971
43. South Dakota: March 4, 2014[28]

No action has been taken on the amendment by the states of Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, or Utah.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ United States Government Printing Office. "Reduction of Voting Age: Twenty-Sixth Amendment" (PDF).
  3. ^ a b Neale, Thomas H., "Lowering the Voting Age was not a New Idea", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 35.
  4. ^ Neale, Thomas H., "Lowering the Voting Age was not a New Idea", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 36–37.
  5. ^ Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Public Papers of the Presidents", January 7, 1954, p. 22.
  6. ^ Neale, Thomas H., "Lowering the Voting Age was not a New Idea", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 38.
  7. ^ Kennedy, Edward M. "The Time Has Come to Let Young People Vote", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 56-64.
  8. ^ University of California, Santa Barbara. "196 - Statement on Signing the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970".
  9. ^ Richard Nixon, "Public Papers of the Presidents" June 22, 1970, p. 512.
  10. ^ Educational Broadcasting Corporation (2006). "Majority Rules: Oregon v. Mitchell (1970)". PBS.
  11. ^ 18 for Georgia and Kentucky, 19 for Alaska and 20 for Hawaii
  12. ^ Neale, Thomas H. The Eighteen Year Old Vote: The Twenty-Sixth Amendment and Subsequent Voting Rates of Newly Enfranchised Age Groups. 1983.(PDF)
  13. ^ Graham, Fred P., in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 67.
  14. ^ Nixon, Richard, "Changing the Voting age will Require a Constitutional Amendment", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 70-77.
  15. ^ Tokaji, Daniel P. (2006). "Intent and Its Alternatives: Defending the New Voting Rights Act" (PDF). Alabama Law Review. 58: 353. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  16. ^ Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970), pp. 188–121
  17. ^ "Making Civics Real: Workshop 2: Essential Readings". Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  18. ^ Carleton, William G., "Teen Voting Would Accelerate Undesirable Changes in the Democratic Process", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 47.
  19. ^ Carleton, William G., "Teen Voting Would Accelerate Undesirable Changes in the Democratic Process", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 48-49.
  20. ^ Carleton, William G., "Teen Voting Would Accelerate Undesirable Changes in the Democratic Process", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 49.
  21. ^ Carleton, William G., "Teen Voting Would Accelerate Undesirable Changes in the Democratic Process", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 50-51.
  22. ^ Kilpatrick, James J., "The States are being Extorted into Ratifying the Twenty-sixth Amendment", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 123-127.
  23. ^ Gallup, George, "The Majority of Americans Favor the Twenty-sixth Amendment", in Amendment XXVI Lowering the Voting Age, ed. Engdahl, Sylvia (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2010), 128-130.
  24. ^ Senate, Journal of the Senate, 92nd Congress, 1st session, 1971. S. S.J. Res. 7
  25. ^ House, Journal of the House, 92nd Congress, 1st session, 1971. H. S.J. Res. 7
  26. ^ a b "THE CONSTITUTION of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION, Centennial Edition, INTERIM EDITION: ANALYSIS OF CASES DECIDED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES TO JUNE 26, 2013" (PDF). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2013. p. 44. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Senate Joint Resolution 1, South Dakota Legislature

External links

1971 Chicago mayoral election

In the Chicago mayoral election of 1971 Richard J. Daley was elected to a fifth term as mayor, defeating Republican Richard Friedman by a landslide 40% margin.

In winning his fifth mayoral election, Daley tied the record set by both Carter Harrison Sr. and Carter Harrison Jr. for the most Chicago mayoral election victories. He also became the first individual elected to five consecutive terms as Mayor of Chicago.

Daley faced weak opposition in the election, with no serious challengers arising.This was the final Chicago mayoral election to be held before the ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Thus, it was the final Chicago mayoral election in which the voting age was 21.

1972 United States presidential election

The 1972 United States presidential election was the 47th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1972. Incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon defeated Democratic Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

Nixon easily swept aside challenges from two Republican congressmen in the 1972 Republican primaries to win re-nomination. McGovern, who had played a significant role in reforming the Democratic nomination system after the 1968 election, mobilized the anti-war movement and other liberal supporters to win his party's nomination. Among the candidates he defeated were early front-runner Edmund Muskie, 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American to run for a major party's presidential nomination.

Nixon emphasized the strong economy and his success in foreign affairs, while McGovern ran on a platform calling for an immediate end to the Vietnam War, and the institution of a guaranteed minimum income. Nixon maintained a large and consistent lead in polling. Separately, Nixon's reelection committee broke into the Watergate Hotel to wiretap the Democratic National Committee's headquarters, a scandal that would later be known as "Watergate". McGovern's campaign was further damaged by the revelation that his running mate, Thomas Eagleton, had undergone psychiatric electroshock therapy as a treatment for depression. Eagleton was replaced on the ballot by Sargent Shriver.

Nixon won the election in a landslide, taking 60.7% of the popular vote and carrying 49 states, and he was the first Republican to sweep the South. McGovern took just 37.5% of the popular vote, while John G. Schmitz of the American Independent Party won 1.4% of the vote. Nixon received almost 18 million more votes than McGovern, and he holds the record for the widest popular vote margin in any United States presidential election. The 1972 presidential election was the first since the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Within two years of the election, both Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned from office, the former due to Watergate and the latter to a separate corruption charge, and Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford.

1975 Chicago mayoral election

In the Chicago mayoral election of 1975 Richard J. Daley was elected to a record sixth term as mayor by a landslide 78% margin.

This was the first Chicago mayoral election since the ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

Only one other individual (Daley's son Richard M. Daley) has matched Daley's feat of winning six Chicago mayoral elections.

92nd United States Congress

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Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.

In the final years of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that followed, Congress repeatedly debated the rights of the millions of former black slaves. By 1869, amendments had been passed to abolish slavery and provide citizenship and equal protection under the laws, but the election of Ulysses S. Grant to the presidency in 1868 convinced a majority of Republicans that protecting the franchise of black male voters was important for the party's future. On February 26, 1869, after rejecting more sweeping versions of a suffrage amendment, Congress proposed a compromise amendment banning franchise restrictions on the basis of race, color, or previous servitude. After surviving a difficult ratification fight, the amendment was certified as duly ratified and part of the Constitution on March 30, 1870.

United States Supreme Court decisions in the late nineteenth century interpreted the amendment narrowly. From 1890 to 1910, southern states adopted new state constitutions and enacted laws that raised barriers to voter registration. This resulted in most black voters and many poor white ones being disenfranchised by poll taxes and discriminatory literacy tests, among other barriers to voting, from which white male voters were exempted by grandfather clauses. A system of white primaries and violent intimidation by white groups also suppressed black participation.

In the twentieth century, the Court began to interpret the amendment more broadly, striking down grandfather clauses in Guinn v. United States (1915) and dismantling the white primary system in the "Texas primary cases" (1927–1953). Along with later measures such as the Twenty-fourth Amendment, which forbade poll taxes in federal elections, and Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (1966), which forbade poll taxes in state elections, these decisions significantly increased black participation in the American political system. To enforce the amendment, Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided federal oversight of elections in discriminatory jurisdictions, banned literacy tests and similar discriminatory devices, and created legal remedies for people affected by voting discrimination.

The amendment created a split within the women's suffrage movement over the amendment not prohibiting denying the women the right to vote on account of sex.

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Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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The Nineteenth Amendment was originally introduced in Congress in 1878 by Senator Aaron A. Sargent. Forty-one years later, in 1919, Congress submitted it to the states for ratification. It was ratified by three-fourths of the states a year later, with Tennessee's ratification being the last needed to add the amendment to the Constitution. In Leser v. Garnett (1922), the Supreme Court rejected claims that the amendment was unconstitutionally adopted.

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Timeline of voting rights in the United States

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Training Wheels for Citizenship

Training Wheels for Citizenship was a youth suffrage proposal by California Democratic state senator John Vasconcellos to give 14-year-olds one-quarter of a vote and 16-year-olds one-half of a vote, with 18-year-olds continuing to have a full vote as under the current system. It would have applied only in state elections. Vasconellos' rationale for the graduated system was that he did not think that the legislature would approve full voting rights; however, he said "in my heart I think 16-year-olds should be given a full vote."

Twenty-sixth Amendment

The Twenty-sixth Amendment may refer to the:

Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution — provides that the right to vote may not be denied on account of age, by any state or by the United States, to any American citizen age 18 or older.

Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland — permitted the state to ratify the Nice Treaty.

Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution of India — 28 December 1971, abolition of privy purse paid to former rulers of princely states which were incorporated into the Indian Republic

Youth suffrage

Youth suffrage, or children's suffrage, is the right of youth to vote and forms part of the broader youth rights movement. Until recently Iran had a voting age of 15; Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua have a voting age of 16; and Indonesia, East Timor, Sudan, and Seychelles have a voting age of 17.

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