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26th Amendment Of The United States Constitution Explained

26th amendment
The 26th Amendment to the constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

26th Amendment
1: 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.

2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment 26 was passed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and ratified on July 1, 1971.

What Is the 26th Amendment?

Section One of the 26th Amendment states that the legal age for United States citizens to vote is eighteen years or older.

Citizens who meet this requirement shouldn’t be denied the right to vote in any State or National election.

The 26th Amendment lowered the legal age to vote from 21 to 18.

Section Two of the 26th Amendment states that Congress can enact this article if it is done through appropriate legislation.

Understanding the 26th Amendment

Initially, in the United States, the legal voting age was set at twenty-one. After the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was ratified, the United States lowered the legal voting age to eighteen.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President Franklin D Roosevelt lowered the military draft age to 18 during WWII.

Before Congress reduced the legal voting age, there was a long dispute about it during World War II

President Franklin D Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for military drafting to 18. At the same time, the minimum voting age was 21.

Old enough to fight, old enough to vote

The youth voting rights movement started a slogan stating, “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

Vietnam War
The sentiment was that if an 18-year-old was old enough to fight, they should have the right to vote.

This led to legislation to lower the voting age being introduced in 1942 by Jennings Randolph.

The pressure to change the current voting age became more intense during the Vietnam War. 

Young men who couldn’t vote because of their age were mobilized to fight for their country. It seemed to create a contradiction of your status at the age of 18.

Oregon v. Mitchell

In 1970, there was a division in the United States Supreme Court during the Oregon v. Mitchell case. 

Street view of Congress
The Oregon v. Mitchell ruling stated that Congress could set voting age limits at the federal level but not state or local levels.

The division was due to the decision that Congress could not regulate the minimum age allowed to participate in voting at the state and local levels. 

However, it would be able to regulate the minimum age in federal elections.

There was increased pressure and a lot of support for the endorsement of a new Constitutional Amendment.

Amendment 26 passed by Congress

In March of 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed by Congress. 

Woman holding sign
The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971.

After quick ratification from all states, it was signed into law by President Richard M Nixon in July of the same year.

Support of the Twenty Sixth Amendment by Congress and the President

Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to publicly declare his support for the constitutional amendment to lower the voting age limit. 

He stated that the youth being enlisted to fight in the military should be allowed to vote.

President Richard Nixon
President Nixon signed the Voting Rights Act amendments into law.

In 1969 during the Vietnam War, there were demonstrations by voting rights activists addressing lawmakers’ hypocrisy. There were also resolutions presented to Congress, but none were successful.

In 1970 the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was amended by Congress, and President Richard Nixon signed the amendments into law.

The Supreme Court Resolution on the 26th Amendment

The Voting Rights Act’s constitutionality had to be reviewed in 1970 by the United States Supreme Court. 

The majority decision included Congress not having the right to set the minimum age at the state and local levels. It could only do so in federal elections.

Supreme Court decision

The verdict stated that those between eighteen and twenty-one could only vote for president and vice president.

United States Supreme Court
United States Supreme Court.

However, they couldn’t vote for other state officials participating in the elections.

Ratification of the 26th Amendment

This caused further dissatisfaction, which led to the proposal of the 26th Amendment, which was ratified faster than any other amendment in the United States and enacted in 1971.

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