REGISTERING THE EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD VOTER
A dramatic element was added to the voter registration movement in the country in 1970. First, the 1970 amendment to the Voting Rights Act was approved, authorizing the vote for eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds in federal elections. Then the requisite number of states ratified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making the eighteen-year-old vote universal. The sudden addition of a potential new voting cohort of 11.5 million unregistered voters throughout the nation focused special attention upon the laws and regulations, state by state, governing the addition of new voters to the rolls.
Less than half the potential new electorate, 4 million, were students in college. The great majority of the newly eligible were those who had left school to work full-time without a college education, their wives, plus 700,000 unemployed teen-agers and 800,000 eligibles in the armed services: a total of 7.5 million of the 11.5 million between 18 and 20.
Georgia, one of two states which previously had authorized eighteen-year-olds to vote, nevertheless still had a lower percentage of registered Whites than either Alabama or Mississippi and a lower percentage of registered Blacks than Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. U.S. Census reports indicated, furthermore, that the highest percentage of the unregistered nationwide was in the