Twenty-sixth Amendment Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in federal, state, and local elections.

As an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ensured equal voting rights for members of all minorities, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act Amendment of 1970, which lowered the minimum voting age in federal, state, and local elections to age eighteen. The drive to lower the voting age was the result of the Vietnam War and the draft, which began at age eighteen. Supporters of a lower voting age argued that if people were old enough to be drafted and go to war, they were old enough to vote.Vote, right to

The Supreme Court found that parts of this measure were unconstitutional. In Oregon v. Mitchell[case]Oregon v. Mitchell[Oregon v. Mitchell](1970), the Court, by a 5-4 vote, held that the statute was constitutional for federal elections; however, in a different 5-4 vote, it found this same provision to be unconstitutional for state elections.

Confronted with the inconvenience of maintaining two sets of registration books and holding separate election systems for federal elections, Congress proposed the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which would require federal, state, and local governments to set their minimum voting age at eighteen, on March 23, 1971, and the amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971. The total time required for this amendment to be ratified 107 days is the shortest in U.S. history.

Constitutional amendment process

Elections

Federalism

Oregon v. Mitchell, Texas v. Mitchell, and United States v. Arizona

Reversals of Court decisions by amendment

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