Twenty-sixth Amendment Timeline

1941Wartime Service Raises Calls To Lower The Voting Age

As America enters World War II, the phrase, “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” becomes a popular slogan among those seeking to lower the voting age to eighteen, the same age that men can be drafted into the military.

1942Jennings Randolph Introduces A Proposal To Lower The Voting Age

Jennings Randolph, a Democratic representative from West Virginia, introduces an amendment to lower the voting age to eighteen. He continues to propose this amendment repeatedly during the course of his four decades in the House and the Senate until it eventually passes in 1971.

1943Georgia Becomes The First State To Lower Its Voting Age

Georgia passes a law to lower the voting age to eighteen for state and local, but not federal, elections.

1965President Johnson Gradually Escalates The War In Vietnam

Following a reelection campaign in which he pledges not to send Americans to fight a war in Asia, President Johnson gradually escalates American troop strength in South Vietnam, until more than a half million American soldiers, sailors, and marines are engaged in combat. The government uses the draft to build its military strength.

1970Congress Can Lower The Voting Age In Federal, But Not State, Elections

Following the passage of a five-year extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the U.S. government files suits against the states of Arizona and Idaho to seek compliance with the law. Texas and Oregon file lawsuits claiming Congress has overstepped its authority when it passed the law. In the U.S. Supreme Court, the four cases are combined into one, Oregon v. Mitchell. The Court upholds the federal prohibitions on literacy tests and residency requirements and certain rules on absentee balloting. The Court also rules that Congress can lower the voting age in federal elections, but not in state and local elections.

1972Young Voters Turn Out In High Numbers

In the first election in which they are eligible to vote, 50 percent of Americans between eighteen and twenty-one go to the polls on Election Day. However, in Presidential election years between 1972 and 2000, the national voter turnout rate declines among younger voters, much more sharply than among older voters.