Celebrating the 26th Amendment and the Voices of Young People

By Renee Davidson, Online Content AssociateLeague of Women Voters

Forty-three years ago today on July 1, 1971, Congress ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. The legislation was a victory for our democracy. In lowering the federal voting age from 21 to 18, the 26th Amendment drastically expanded our electorate and increased access to the ballot box.

Like the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, the movement to lower America’s voting age took years of advocacy. The push first arose during World War II and reached a peak during the Vietnam War, when young men denied the right to vote were being drafted to fight for their country. Activists tirelessly led grassroots campaigns state by state, raising public awareness and pressing legislators to support their cause. Their hard work paid off: after Congress passed the 26th Amendment in March 1971, it became the quickest amendment ever ratified in American history.

Since it was passed 43 years ago, the 26th amendment has empowered millions of young people to become politically active and help shape our country. Today, 46 million young people ages 18- to 29-years-old are eligible to vote, making up 21 percent of the eligible voting population. Their voices help propel the country forward, bringing new ideas and perspectives to our national dialogue.

Help celebrate the 26th Amendment by updating your voter registration record or encouraging the young people you know to register to vote today. You can also sign up to participate in National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 23, when hundreds of organizations across the country will hold events to register voters at schools, at work, in their neighborhoods and online. With your help, we’re Making Democracy Work® by making sure our youngest voters have a voice on the issues that are most important to them.

Photo Credit: League of Women Voters

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Slava R.
Slava R.about a year ago

"I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created." Carlin 4 President

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa Schollhornabout a year ago

Thank you.

Susan T.
Susan T.about a year ago

Spencer Y. well you know more informed young people than I do....actually it is 20-30 year old women who cannot be bothered to vote.
Sad because I consider it my responsibility to vote. We have the right to do so, unlike many other countries and how many fight to vote.
No matter what our differences are, politically speaking voting is important.

Susan T.
Susan T.about a year ago

I encourage conservatives to vote as well!

Edith B.
Edith B.about a year ago

I have voted in every election since I was 18. Kentucky all ready allowed that before the constitutional amendment.

James Maynard
James Maynardabout a year ago

Please! Update your voter registration
record AND encourage young people
you know to register to vote today. I
even do this here in Mazatlan!

John chapman
John chapmanabout a year ago

If we want to hold what we've got, or even make some gains in the mid terms.

This is the voters we absolutely have to key in on.

Sadly the current cluster in Washington, is disillusioning these young voters we desperately need.

They need to know they CAN make a difference.

Doug G.
Doug G.about a year ago

What a big difference 43 years makes. I would take 7/1/71 any day. Screw the Oligarchy.

Anne Moran
Anne Moranabout a year ago

Hey,, they are the future,, we better listen to what they have to say..

Get out and vote,, all you young'uns...

Warren Biggs
Warren Biggsabout a year ago

Why does everyone keep referring to our form of government a democracy? It is a representative republic. In a true democracy, everyone would vote on every piece of legislation. Instead we elect representatives who supposedly "represent" us and our interests.