Forty years ago today -- on March 10, 1971-- the U.S. Senate approved the 26th amendment to the Constitution, which proposed lowering the voting age to 18. The House of Representatives acted likewise, and on June 30, 1971 the amendment received ratification by the 38 required states, and became law.
The Congress had faced mounting pressure to pass the measure as the war in Vietnam raged on. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” was a frequent saying of proponents of the amendment who felt it was unjust to draft young men to fight in a war when they lacked the means to advocate for an end to the war or their conscripted service in it.
The roots of the movement originated in 1940. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a national conscription, requiring that all men between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five register for one year’s military service – to be selected by a national lottery. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the required term of service for those conscripted was extended and the age range was expanded to men ages eighteen to sixty-four.
Post by Jan Levinson, Outreach Archivist, Russell Library