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What is the Twenty-Sixth Amendment?
Section One of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that the legal age to vote for United States citizens is eighteen years of age or older.
Citizens who meet this requirement shouldn’t be denied the right to vote in any State or National election.
Section Two of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment states that Congress has the power to enact this article if it is done through proper legislation.
Understanding The Twenty-Sixth 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 reduced the legal voting age to eighteen.
Before the legal voting age was reduced, there was a long dispute about it during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had lowered the minimum age for military drafting to 18. At the same time, the minimum voting age was 21. The youth voting rights movement started a slogan stating “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” This led to the legislation to lower the voting age to be introduced in 1942 by Jennings Randolph. The situation got more intense during the Vietnam War. Young men who couldn’t vote because of their age got mobilized to fight for their country.
In 1970, there was a division in the United States Supreme Court during the Oregon V. Mitchell case. 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 level. However, it would be able to regulate the minimum age in federal elections.
There was increased pressure – as well as a lot of support – for the endorsement of a new Constitutional Amendment. In March of 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed by Congress. 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 amendment on the constitution for lowering the voting age limit. He stated that the youth who were being enlisted to fight in the military should be allowed to vote.
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 1965 was passed by Congress, and President Richard M. Nixon signed it.
The Supreme Court resolution on the Twenty-Sixth 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 state and local levels. It would only do so in federal elections.
The Court was very divided after the decision about Congress. The verdict stated that those between the ages of eighteen and twenty could only vote for president and vice president. However, they couldn’t vote for other state officials participating in the elections. There was still dissatisfaction, which led to the proposal of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which was ratified faster than any other amendment in the United States and enacted in 1971.