June 30, 1971 – 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Ratified

On this day in history, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution lowered the voting age to 18, in response to arguments that those old enough to serve in the military should be able to vote on issues that would literally affect their lives.

As the U.S. House of Representatives history website relates:

Congress first 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.”

The Amendment added 10 million new eligible voters, increasing the overall voting pool nationally by 8 percent. In some college communities student voters had the potential to make up over one-third of the actual voting block. However, as Thom File writing for the U.S. Census reports:

In every presidential election since 1964, young voters between the ages of 18 through 24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups, although young-adult voting rates have fluctuated from one election to another.”

Data from U.S. Census Bureau

In 2020, according to the Brookings Institution, there was a surge in young adult voter turnout: “younger age groups showed the greatest turnout increase in that election, rising by 8 points for those aged 18 to 29. In total, over half of these young adults turned out to vote.”

via Brookings Intitution

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