T, Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall
In the Voting Rights Act of 1970, Congress provided that the voting age in federal, state, and local elections should be eighteen years, whereas the previous voting age had commonly been twenty-one under state law. In *Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), four members of the Supreme Court held that Congress could not set the voting age at eighteen for either (p. 1033) federal or state and local elections, while four other members of the Court held that Congress possessed the power to set the age of eighteen as the voting age in federal as well as state and local elections. The deciding vote was cast by Justice Hugo *Black, who held that Congress could set eighteen as the age for voting in federal elections but could not do so for state and local elections; for which the voting qualifications could only be set by the states.
As a result of this decision, eighteen-year-olds could vote for president and vice president and members of Congress, but they could not participate in state and local elections unless permitted to do so under state law. The impending 1972 elections were thus threatened with serious complications. Responding to this situation, on 23 March 1971, Congress proposed the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution, providing that the voting age in all federal, state, and local elections should be prescribed at eighteen. Within 107 days of its proposal by Congress, the amendment was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states and became a part of the Constitution, having been ratified in the shortest period of time of any constitutional amendment in United States history.
Richard C. Cortner