Welcome! This web quest will inform you on what the 26th and final amendment contributed to voting rights.
The teacher will assign you a number and you will read a short article and answer your task question sheet.
- NOV 27, 2019
- FEB 16, 2010
The 26 Amendment lowered the legal voting age in the United States from 21 to 18. The long debate over lowering the voting age began during World War II and intensified during the Vietnam War, when young men denied the right to vote were being conscripted to fight for their country. In the 1970 case Oregon v. Mitchell, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum age in federal elections, but not at the state and local level. Amid increasing support for a Constitutional amendment, Congress passed the 26th Amendment in March 1971. The states promptly ratified it, and President Richard M. Nixon signed it into law that July.
The 26th Amendment: “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote”
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for the military draft age to 18, at a time when the minimum voting age (as determined by the individual states) had historically been 21. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” became a common slogan for a youth voting rights movement, and in 1943 Georgia became the first state to lower its voting age in state and local elections from 21 to 18.
Did you know? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, young voters (age 18 to 24) were the only group to show a statistically significant increase in turnout in 2008, despite an overall increase of some 5 million voters.
Jennings Randolph, then a Democratic congressman from West Virginia, introduced federal legislation to lower the voting age in 1942; it was the first of 11 times that Randolph, who was later elected to the Senate, would introduce such a bill in Congress. The driving force behind Randolph’s efforts was his faith in America’s youth, of whom he believed: “They possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices in the world and are anxious to rectify those ills.”
Presidential & Congressional Support for the 26th Amendment
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led the U.S. armed forces to victory in Europe in 1945, later became the first president to publicly voice his support for a constitutional amendment lowering the minimum voting age. In his 1954 State of the Union address, Eisenhower declared: “For years our citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 have, in time of peril, been summoned to fight for America. They should participate in the political process that produces this fateful summons.”
In the late 1960s, with the United States embroiled in a long, costly war in Vietnam, youth voting rights activists held marches and demonstrations to draw lawmakers’ attention to the hypocrisy of drafting young men who lacked the right to vote. In 1969, no fewer than 60 resolutions were introduced in Congress to lower the minimum voting age, but none resulted in any action. The following year, when Congress passed a bill extending and amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it contained a provision that lowered the voting age to 18 in federal, state and local elections. Though he signed the bill into law, President Richard M. Nixon issued a public statement declaring that he believed the provision to be unconstitutional. “Although I strongly favor the 18-year-old vote,” Nixon continued, “I believe–along with most of the Nation’s leading constitutional scholars–that Congress has no power to enact it by simple statute, but rather it requires a constitutional amendment.”
Records of Rights Vote: “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote”
Cast your vote for the 26th Amendment to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!
Congress can move quickly. The 26th Amendment was ratified in 100 days, faster than any other amendment.
In April 1970, Congress controversially lowered the voting age to 18 as part of legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many people, including President Richard Nixon, believed that it was the right of the states, not the federal government, to set the voting age. President Nixon, nevertheless, signed the act, which was to go into effect January 1, 1971.
The effort to lower the voting age to 18 had begun three decades earlier. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” a slogan first heard during World War II, was adopted by student activists during the Vietnam War.
Photograph of a young Marine landing at Danang, Vietnam, 08/03/1965
In 1942, the slogan prompted Congressman Jennings Randolph of West Virginia to propose an amendment to the Constitution lowering the voting age to 18. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson both championed the cause. Activists during the Vietnam War increased pressure on Congress to change the voting age, and in 1971, when Senator Randolph reintroduced his original proposal, it passed overwhelmingly.
On December 21, 1970, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had indeed overstepped its legislative bounds in lowering the voting age. Fearing mass confusion over who could vote in the 1972 election, Congress quickly moved to pass the 26th Amendment. Ratification was accomplished in a record four months.
The 26th Amendment to the Constitution was certified by General Services Administrator Robert Kunzig on July 1, 1971. In a ceremony at the White House, President Richard M. Nixon also signed as a witness. He took the unprecedented step of inviting three 18-year-olds to also sign the new amendment.
The 26th Amendment
July 01, 1971
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectServing 30 years in the House of Representatives, Carl Albert of Oklahoma earned the nickname "Little Giant" as a high school senior. The endearment stuck with him through his rise to Speaker of the House in 1971.
On this date, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. In the turmoil surrounding the unpopular Vietnam War, lowering the national voting age became a controversial topic. Responding to arguments that those old enough to be drafted for military service, should be able to exercise the right to vote, Congress lowered the voting age as part of the Voting Rights Act of 1970. The Supreme Court upheld the legislation in a 5 to 4 vote in applying the lowered voting age to federal elections only. A constitutional amendment was required to uniformly reduce the age to 18. Endorsed by Speaker Carl Albert of Oklahoma, the amendment passed the House by a vote of 401 to 19, on March 23, 1971. The state legislatures in Ohio and North Carolina were the last to approve the amendment before official ratification took effect on July 1, 1971. With the 1972 elections looming, the 26th Amendment was ratified in record time. The Richard M. Nixon administration certified it four days later on July 5.
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