Amendment XXVI – Right to Vote at Age 18 (1971)


Amendment XXVI reads: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”

The Twenty Sixth Amendment set the voting age for U.S. citizens at eighteen.  For many years, a large number of Americans were denied the basic right to vote.  Earlier, the qualifications for voting were set by individual states.  Before ratification of the Constitution in the year 1788, most of the states limited voting rights only to white, male citizens who were at least 21 years old.  Following a long list of amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, discrimination in voting practices in the U. S. was significantly reduced.

The term suffrage means the right to vote.  Initially, the right to vote was limited to white males who owned property.  Poor white men, women and slaves were not entitled to voting rights.  Various Amendments made from time to time extended voting rights.  The Fifteenth Amendment triggered a tremendous change in this regard.  That Amendment forbade the consideration of a citizen’s race, color or condition of servitude in granting their right to vote.  By virtue of the nineteenth Amendment, voting right was extended to American women.  Poll taxes in federal elections were barred by the twenty-fourth amendment.

The Vietnam War is considered to be one of the main triggers for altering the voting age of U.S. Citizens to 18 years.  The average age of an American soldier in Vietnam War was about 19.  The students protested reasoning that if the Americans could fight and die for the country at the age of 18 and 19; they should not be denied the right to vote.

The twenty-sixth amendment was proposed on March 23, 1971 and ratified on July 1, 1971.