Welcome back to our series surveying the 27 constitutional amendments ratified over the course of our history as a sovereign nation, a Constitutional Republic. Each amendment revises our Constitution, alters the course of history, and, in one way or another, advances America closer on her path to exceptionalism. The article below reviews the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and ratified by the states on July 1, 1971. The Amendment gave the right to vote to citizens 18 years old and older. Although the issue of lowering the age to vote had been raised previously, it became a rallying cry during the Vietnam War Era.
During that time, the American public joined together to express overwhelming and fierce objection to the reality that America’s youth were being conscripted to fight a war in a faraway land for a cause they may not have believed in, and yet at the same time, they were denied the right to vote. Sentiment culminated in the streets of America with synchronized shouts of the maxim, “Old enough to fight! Old enough to vote!”
In response to the public outcry, in 1970, Congress attempted to amend and extend the protections guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act (1965) by passing a federal law mandating that all American citizens who are eighteen years old or older shall not be denied the right to vote in America’s federal, state, or local elections. However, practically before the ink was dry, the Supreme Court ruled that although the Constitution conferred power to Congress to regulate federal elections, Congress lacked authority to regulate state and local elections. The law, therefore, was struck down as unconstitutional.
After the Supreme Court declared it was beyond congressional power to lower the age requirements for voting in state and local elections, a different path was taken to achieve the will of We The People. Indeed, Congress proposed, and the states ratified the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Working in lockstep, the Amendment was swiftly effectuated, as stated in its entirety below:
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 Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.