Today in history: Voting age lowered to 18

student voters

On this date in 1971, President Richard Nixon, under popular pressure, formally certified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

Leading up to that period, the demand had grown that young people be given the opportunity to vote. Tens of thousands of young Americans were drafted into the military for the Vietnam War, and the Korean and other wars before that, when they turned 18. Yet, because they were unenfranchised, they had no say whatsoever in making the policies that determined whether the nation - and their own selves - would be involved in a bloody war overseas or not.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 legislated, among other things, that those 18 and over had the right to vote. However, Oregon and Texas both challenged the law in court, claiming the provision unconstitutional. Thus the need for the actual change to the Constitution arose.

Most recently, people aged 18 through 21 played a huge role in electing the current administration. Statistically, they are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, as well as more progressive in general. Still, at least millions of young people continue to be disenfranchised, either due to increasingly draconian voter identification laws or a lack of citizenship.

Photo: Mason Votes // CC 2.0

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