Youth's Battle for the Ballot: A History of Voting Age in America

Youth's Battle for the Ballot: A History of Voting Age in America

Youth's Battle for the Ballot: A History of Voting Age in America

Youth's Battle for the Ballot: A History of Voting Age in America

Synopsis

This is the first full history dealing with the voting age in the United States from 1607 to 1991 that shows how military service and suffrage have been linked through the years. Although the study points to standards regarding the right to vote since ancient times and contemporary global experiences, the account focuses on contemporary America. The history reviews federal and state action up to the ratification of the 26th Amendment giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. The study concludes with a short summary also of the youth vote in the last two decades.

Excerpt

Historians afforded few pages to the sporadic youth suffrage struggle that prevailed in the United States for more than 100 years. Therefore, the granting of teenage suffrage by way of the Twenty-sixth Amendment, in 1971, aroused contemporary national interest in the "sudden" enfranchisement of 18- to 20-year-olds.

This book, depicting youth's battle for the ballot from Athens, B.C., to Washington, D.C., historically establishes, first, that the question of the age of majority or of lowering the voting age was not a novel or unique proposal contrived by some liberal group in America--or even in the Western world-- but rather that there had existed throughout history a struggle to steer the ballot within the political reach of youth; and, second, that the practice of granting the military franchise to youth in Athens (18) and Rome (19), perpetuated in Europe during the Middle Ages and carried, consciously or unconsciously, in its prevailing form to the New World, was widely practiced in the colonies and embodied in the statutes of the newly formed states. Further, the unparalleled success of this country at home and abroad in more than 100 military engagements and nearly thirty years of actual combat established an indelible concept of the regimental guidon floating majestically over the voting booth. As such, it fed a steady stream of successful military commanders into prominent political positions, especially at the White House, and gave the youth vote an aura of manifest destiny.

My approach, probably the first full treatment of the issue aside from a compilation of references produced nearly a half-century ago, broadens the reader's knowledge of the manner in which electors received the ballot. It affords a comparative look at the voting age history of almost every country in the world and proceeds to focus with concrete material on the issue by including federal and state efforts to reduce the suffrage age, the contem-

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