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

By Wendell W. Cultice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The Supreme Court Becomes the Battleground (1970)

The fact that a given law or procedure is efficient, convenient and useful in facilitating functions of government, if standing alone, will not save it if it is contrary to the Constitution. Convenience and efficiency are not the primary objectives--or hallmarks--of a democratic government.

- Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

President Nixon's recent challenge of the legislation that would lower the voting age to 18 was based primarily on a fear that any legal contest to such a law might not be reached before 1972, and thus would jeopardize the proceedings of the presidential elections to be held that year.


PROBABILITY OF A PROMPT JUDICIAL TEST

From extensive legal research and a brief review of the provisions of the legislation, according to attorneys for the Youth Franchise Coalition, it was reasonable to conclude that a court case on the validity of the 18-year-old voting statute would be initiated and resolved before January 1, 1971, the date the legislation was slated to go in effect.

Several possible approaches could be used to achieve such a test case. For all these alternatives, the courts would be justified in ruling on the validity of the provisions if elements of an actual controversy were present. Thus, the, coalition's legal counsel assured the organization that a test case could be started once the bill was signed into law.

In one approach, in a case arising between a state and the attorney general, the Supreme Court would have original jurisdiction. The state could file a

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