Grateful American Kids

The Constitutional Calendar ConSource

July 1: The 26th Amendment

In 1971, after four months—the shortest ratification period of any Amendment—the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18: “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.” Prior to this Amendment, American citizens had to be 21 years old to vote. Individual states could choose to lower the age to 18, but at the time of the Vietnam War, most had not. The war sparked a fierce debate about the voting age because many 18-20 year-olds were drafted to fight but could not vote and half of the men killed in the war were between 18 and 20. The 1970 Supreme Court case Oregon v. Mitchell granted Congress the power to lower the voting age for federal elections, but not state elections. In response, Congress drafted and successfully ratified the 26th Amendment to lower the voting age in all elections.

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