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

By Wendell W. Cultice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
The Call to Arms in the House (1970)

Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form.

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

It was widely rumored that President Nixon, while avidly supporting the principle of giving the 18-year-olds an opportunity to vote, would disagree with the statutory approach initiated by the Senate to grant such a franchise. On Sunday, April 27, almost simultaneously with the president's call for House members to scrap 18-year-old legislation, Rosalyn Hester, chairman of the Youth Franchise Coalition, on behalf of its more than 2 million constituency, indicated that the coalition rejected the president's argument that Congress could not decide to lower the voting age by statute. According to her, noted constitutional experts had pointed out sufficient basis for Congress to act in such a manner. The issue was not the constitutional question. The real issue was whether 18-year-Congress should be allowed to vote. Congress should make its determination and let the courts decide the constitutionality, she insisted.

The coalition also rejected the president's statement that the pending legislation would endanger the 1972 presidential election because it might be proved unconstitutional after the vote. The bill, however, contained many safeguards--the separability clause allowed the court to decide the statute's constitutionality. In the past, the courts had given cases that involved voting rights a preferred position and had acted swiftly in making a determination. The coalition could see no reason for the court to delay the consideration of the issue. There was even the precedent for the statute to be tested before its effective date of January 1971.

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