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Table of Contents
When you turn 18, one of the things to look forward to is being able to vote. However, decades ago, men of the same age could not exercise this right, and worried about only one thing ー the possibility of being drafted for war. They thought it was unfair that at 18, they could be enlisted to fight for their country, but did not have suffrage ー the right to vote. Thus, the 26th Amendment was made to the United States Constitution to lower the legal voting age. An amendment is an alteration or addition made to a constitution, statute, legislative bill, or resolution.
See the fact file below for more information on the 26th Amendment or alternatively, you can download our 21-page The 26th Amendment worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EXTENSION OF VOTER ELIGIBILITY
- When the Constitution of the United States was ratified, qualifications for a voter to be eligible were unspecified and left for each state to decide. Suffrage was not a right everyone enjoyed until the mid-20th century. Most states limited voter eligibility to white, property-owning males.
- Some states used these laws to limit who would be allowed to vote. However, many amendments have been made to the Constitution to expand voter eligibility, such as:
- The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to people born or naturalized in the US, and guaranteed equal protection to all, including former slaves.
- The 15th Amendment allowed people to vote regardless of color, race, or previous servitude.
- The 19th Amendment granted suffrage to American women.
- The 24th Amendment abolished the requirement of citizens to pay poll taxes before voting.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed to eliminate discriminatory practices to African American voters, such as requiring literacy tests or not being allowed to vote.
“OLD ENOUGH TO FIGHT, OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE”
- During World War II, the minimum age to enter the military was lowered to 18. At the time, the voting age was 21. Efforts to lower the minimum age for voters began then, but were unsuccessful. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” was the common slogan for youth voting rights.
- In 1943, Georgia was the first state that lowered its voting age in state and local elections to 18.
- President Richard M. Nixon signed an extension to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to lower the voting age to 18 in all federal and state elections. This was met with opposition from Oregon and Texas, questioning its constitutionality and claiming that this contravened with the states’ power to decide on voter eligibility qualifications.
- The US Supreme Court supported this claim in Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), saying that the Voting Rights Act only applied to federal elections, and not in the states.
- The movement to lower the age of being eligible to vote gained momentum with the Vietnam War, as men at the age of 18 could be drafted for war, but did not have the ability to vote.
- In response to this, the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution was proposed.
CONTENTS OF THE 26TH AMENDMENT
- The full text of the amendment states:
- “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 power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
THE 26TH AMENDMENT IN EFFECT
- The proposed amendment received unanimous votes in favor from the Senate on March 10, 1971, as well as the House of Representatives on March 23.
- After two months, the 26th Amendment was ratified, making it the shortest time for an amendment to be ratified. Though President Nixon signed it into law on July 5 of that year, it was in effect by July 1.
- The effects of the 26th Amendment were not always consistent, however.
- Youth turnout declined to 36% in the presidential election from 55.4% in 1972.
- There was a slight rebound in the 1992 elections, but voting rates of people aged 18-24 remained lower than of older voters.
- The second highest voter turnout of 18- to 24-year-olds was in the 2008 presidential elections, with a voter turnout of 49%.
The 26th Amendment Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the 26th Amendment across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use The 26th Amendment worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the 26th Amendment which was made to the United States Constitution to lower the legal voting age. An amendment is an alteration or addition made to a constitution, statute, legislative bill, or resolution.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The 26th Amendment Fact File
- A Closer Look
- Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote
- Eligible Voter
- Voting Rights Timeline
- Looking Back
- Empowering Young Voices
- In the Shoes of a Student Activist
- Youth Changing History
- Hope of the Nation
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Use With Any Curriculum
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