Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-sixth Amendment (Amendment XXVI) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from using age as a reason for denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States who are at least eighteen years old. It was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and three-fourths of the states ratified it by July 1, 1971.
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Various public officials had supported lowering the voting age during the mid-20th century, but were unable to gain the legislative momentum necessary for passing a constitutional amendment.
The drive to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 grew across the country during the 1960s, driven in part by the military draft held during the Vietnam War. The draft conscripted young men between the ages of 18 and 21 into the armed forces, primarily the U.S. Army, to serve in or support military combat operations in Vietnam. A common slogan of proponents of lowering the voting age was "old enough to fight, old enough to vote".
Determined to get around inaction on the issue, congressional allies included a provision for the 18-year-old vote in a 1970 bill that extended the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court subsequently held in the case of Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could not lower the voting age for state and local elections. Recognizing the confusion and costs that would be involved in maintaining separate voting rolls and elections for federal and state contests, Congress quickly proposed and the states ratified the Twenty-sixth Amendment.