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

By Wendell W. Cultice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
The Franchise in Disunion (1971)

It is not unseemly for a man to die fighting for his country.

-- Homer

By 1971, a new era in American politics, fueled by the "living room war" in Indochina and the swelling ranks of the youth suffrage army, was on the horizon. The national mood had moved clearly toward greater support of the issue of a lower voting age. A September 1970 poll by Louis Harris indicated that 57 percent of the population were in favor of lowering the voting age to 18; only 36 percent were opposed. A field Research Corporation poll taken in California in January 1971 raised the favorable percentage to 59 percent.

Although voters in several states had defeated the measure in 1970, the trend in America was for a lower voting age. It had been offered in each Congress since 1942, and during the interim, at least nine states had enacted an age of less than 21 for their electors. By the third month of the year, at least thirty-six states would be considering state constitutional amendments to enact a suffrage age of less than 21.


LET US FORGE AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN GENERATIONS

On Thursday, January 17, President Nixon, appearing before a campus audience, said, "There can be no generation gap in America." Citing the 18-year-old vote in the federal elections, he called on young people to try out "the system."

In a prepared address to a faculty-student convocation at the University of Nebraska, Nixon said that his administration "has no higher priority

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