Twenty-sixth Amendment:- Do you feel that young people are not heard properly or they do not possess the power to bring any change within the governance system of a nation? In this blog, you will get a glimpse of the power of young people who assisted in bringing the 26th Amendment to the American Constitution during the era of the Vietnam War.
The crux of the 26th Amendment which was ratified in the year 1971 provides that the voting age is reduced from 21 to 18 years old. You will also get to know the origin of the 26th Amendment, the meaning, and the impact of the 26th Amendment on the young people in America.
Twenty-sixth Amendment to the American Constitution
As per the text of Section 1 of the 26th Amendment, all citizens who are above the age of 18 years in the United States have the right to vote. The second part states that this right shall not be denied by the United States on the basis of age.
Earlier the voting age of the citizens in the United States of America was 21 years. With this 26th Amendment in the year 1971, the voting age was reduced to 18 years.
Historical Development of the 26th Amendment
One question that must be answered is the reason behind the need to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18. For this, the historical development of some events must be taken into consideration for a better understanding.
It all started with the Second World War, as the then Congress lowered the age from 21 to 18 years for citizens who could be drafted into the Military. This led to the whole debate of reducing the age to 18 years and it got some recognition by the 34th American President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the 1950s, he made attempts to lower the voting age, but the efforts went in vain as the states criticised this attempt to reduce the voting age.
The next significant development was the lowering of the voting age to 18 years by signing the extension of the Voting Rights Act (1965) by the 37th President of The United States, Richard M. Nixon in the year 1970.
This was challenged by Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, and Texas by a suit on the ground that this lowering of the age takes away the powers of states to have their own voting-related requirements. This claim was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the case of Oregon v. Mitchell in the year 1970.
This was the turning point in the passage of the origin of the 26th Amendment as it sparked a protest by students. This was the time period when the Vietnam War was going on. Since young people of 18 years of age could be summoned to war to fight but were not given the right to vote, it sparked a nationwide protest among the young students.
The prime concern of the students was that they were considered old enough to fight in a war but not old enough to vote and choose their representatives. Ultimately, the U.S. Congress introduced this 26th Amendment to the American Constitution in the year 1971, and it was ratified by the states in the same year.
How did the Twenty-Sixth Amendment affect the concerns of young people during the Vietnam War?
The major concern of the young people during the Vietnam War was to get their voting rights to elect their representatives at the Federal and state levels. The issue was that young people of 18 years of age could be drafted to participate in the military, but voting rights were given to only those who had attained the age of 21 years.
With the revolutionary protests of the youth during the Vietnam era, Congress introduced the 26th Amendment which ultimately reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age. Hence, the issue of “old enough for war” but “not old enough to vote” finally came to rest with the introduction of the 26th Amendment.
The impact of the 26th Amendment can be felt in the recent elections, with the turnout of young voters. The 2020 elections are the classic example to analyse the impact of the 26th Amendment, as the young voters turned out in the highest numbers since the ratification of the amendment. Enabling the youth to elect their representatives in the elections helps in celebrating the democracy in our country in the true sense.
One might think what exactly is achieved by enabling the young voters to vote? The answer can be analysed by these statistics: In the upcoming 2024 elections, the youth specifically the “Gen Z” and Millennials would combine to comprise more than 40% of eligible voters. One can imagine how impactful these numbers are to decide our future.
1. How would you define a young voter?
The term “young voter” is subjective and the age group may vary from country to country. Generally, a person in the age group of 18-25 years is known as “young”. A generally accepted age is considered as 18 years for granting the right to vote.
2. When was the 26th Amendment ratified by the states?
Congress proposed the Amendment on March 23, 1971. The three-fourth of the states as mandated by the Constitution ratified the Amendment by July 1, 1971, making it the fastest amendment which has been ratified by the states in such a short span of time.
3. What sparked the protest among the youth that led to the birth of the 26th Amendment?
It can be said that it all started with the consequences of the 14th Amendment, as it provides that every individual who has attained the age of 21 years can vote. But the youth above 18 were called to participate in wars.