1971 July 5

18-Year-Olds Finally Get the Right to Vote

 

President Richard Nixon on this day signed the Twenty-sixth Amendment, granting 18–20-year-olds the right to vote. Eighteen year-olds had previously been granted the right to vote by Congress in 1970 in an amendment to the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court, on December 21, 1970, however, declared the law an unconstitutional intrusion on the right of states to set their own voting requirements.

The Twentieth-Sixth Amendment was the fastest amendment ever ratified. Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the states on the 23rd of March 1971. It was ratified by 38 states by July 1st, which made it officially a part of the Constitution. (The presidential signing of a new amendment is a separate part of the procedure.)

The 26th Amendment: “Section 1. 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. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Learn more: Alexander Keyssar: The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in America (2000)

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