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

By Wendell W. Cultice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
The Battle Returns to Capitol Hill (1971)

The U.S. Constitution provided for a government of laws, not of men.

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

By March 1971, a rush was on to swing states into line with federal rules on the voting age. All across the country, state legislatures were moving to give teenagers the right to vote in state and federal elections. This wave of activity came in the wake of decisions by Congress and the Supreme Court that made 18-year-olds eligible to vote in elections for national office, but not in elections for state and local office.

Officials immediately were thrown into confusion and uncertainty except in those states that already had given 18-year-olds the vote--Georgia ( 1943), Kentucky ( 1955), and Alaska ( 1970). Ultimately, in view of the prevailing confusion, it might take further action by Congress and a constitutional amendment to rescue the beleaguered states from their individual predicaments.

In view of the predicted chaos, the legislatures in the overwhelming majority of states had simultaneously started action to change their constitutions so that 18-year-olds could vote in all elections.


SENATE ACTION ON SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 7

On March 10, with ninety-four senators present and voting, the Senate unanimously passed Resolution No. 7, the constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18. Several senators who were on record as opposed to the 18-year-old vote succumbed to the apparent will of the majority and

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