This Day in the Law
June 30

26th Amendment Goes Into Effect (1971)

On June 30, 1971, Ohio ratified the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus putting the Amendment in effect. Ohio provided the last state ratification necessary to make the proposed amendment a law. The 26th Amendment establishes the voting age at eighteen.

The idea of lowering the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen began with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In his 1954 State of the Union address, Eisenhower became the first president to publicly state his support for prohibiting age-based denials of suffrage. Nothing came of this, however, until President Richard Nixon signed a law in 1970 which required the voting age to be 18 in all federal, state, and local elections. The law was quickly challenged and found unconstitutional.

Subsequently, Congress decided that passing a Constitutional amendment, rather than a law, was the best way to change the voting age. There was a lot of support for this amendment because of the Vietnam War, in which many young men who were too young to vote were drafted to fight in the war. The slogan “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” was used by proponents of the amendment.

In March of 1971, the Senate voted 94-0 in favor of proposing a Constitutional amendment to guarantee that the voting age could not be higher than 18. The House of Representatives subsequently voted 401-19 in favor of the proposed amendment. Only seven months after Congress submitted it to the states, the amendment was ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures with the final necessary ratification coming from Ohio on June 30, 1971. This is the shortest time in which any proposed amendment has received the number of ratifications needed for adoption.