The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a significant amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age.
It was ratified in 1971 in response to the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War, as young men were being drafted to fight and die for their country but were not allowed to vote.
The language of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment is straightforward and consists of just one sentence, which reads as follows:
“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.”
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was the fastest ratified amendment in U.S. history and marked a significant moment in the fight for civil rights and voting rights in the United States.
26th Amendment Facts
1. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on July 1, 1971
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971, and it lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age, ensuring that more young Americans had the right to vote and participate in the democratic process.
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This amendment was a significant moment in the fight for civil rights and voting rights in the United States, as it recognized the rights and voices of young adults who were being disproportionately affected by political decisions but were unable to vote.
2. The amendment was a response to the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War
The amendment was largely a response to the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War. At the time, young men who were 18 years of age were being drafted into military service and sent to fight and die for their country, yet they did not have the right to vote.
This was seen as a major injustice by many, and the movement to lower the voting age gained momentum as a result.
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The argument was that if young adults were old enough to be drafted into military service and risk their lives, they were old enough to vote and have a say in the political decisions that affected them.
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment recognized this argument and ensured that young Americans had the right to vote and participate in the democratic process.
3. The amendment was proposed by Congress in 1971
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and was quickly ratified by the required number of states. The amendment was ratified by the 38th state, North Carolina, on July 1, 1971, just three months after it was proposed.
This made it the fastest ratified amendment in U.S. history, reflecting the strong support for the amendment and the sense of urgency surrounding the issue of voting rights for young Americans.
4. The amendment is the only one to have been ratified by state conventions
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment is the only amendment to the United States Constitution to have been ratified by state conventions rather than by state legislatures. All other amendments to the Constitution have been ratified by state legislatures.
Ratification by state conventions was allowed under Article V of the Constitution, but it has only been used once, for the ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. The use of state conventions was seen as a quicker and more efficient way to ratify the amendment, as it allowed for a more direct and focused approach to the issue of voting rights for young Americans.
The success of the convention approach in ratifying the Twenty-Sixth Amendment has not been replicated since, but it remains a unique and significant aspect of the amendment’s history.
5. The amendment has been used in several court cases to protect the voting rights of 18-year-olds.
Since its ratification, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment has been used in several court cases to protect the voting rights of 18-year-olds.
One of the most notable cases was Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), which challenged the constitutionality of a law that set different voting ages for federal and state elections. In a split decision, the Supreme Court upheld the law, but also affirmed the constitutionality of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and its application to federal elections.
Additionally, the amendment has been used to challenge various state laws and practices that have attempted to limit the voting rights of young Americans, such as voter ID laws, registration requirements, and limitations on early voting.
In these cases, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment has been cited as a powerful tool to protect the voting rights of young Americans and to ensure that they are able to participate fully in the democratic process.
6. The amendment did not initially apply to all elections
Initially, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment did not apply to all elections, as states were allowed to set the voting age for state and local elections.
However, in the case of Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment applied only to federal elections, while states could set their own voting ages for state and local elections.
However, in 1975, the Supreme Court case of Dunn v. Blumstein established that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment applied to all elections, including state and local elections.
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Tennessee’s residency requirements for voting violated the amendment’s prohibition on denying or abridging the right to vote based on age.
The ruling effectively extended the amendment’s protections to all elections, ensuring that young Americans had the right to vote in all elections at the age of 18. This was a significant moment in the history of the amendment and helped to ensure that its protections were fully extended to all citizens across the United States.
7. The amendment was supported by both Democrats and Republicans
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was supported by both Democrats and Republicans and its passage marked a significant moment in the fight for civil rights and voting rights in the United States.
The amendment had broad support among both political parties, and it was seen as a common-sense measure that recognized the rights and voices of young Americans who were being disproportionately affected by political decisions but were unable to vote.