*Note: The Interactive Constitution is being developed over the course of the next two years. So far, Amendments 1-15 have Interactive content, and we are working on bringing you Interactive content for this Amendment. In the meanwhile, the interpretation below is supplied by the Annenberg Classroom.
Amendment XXVI gives young adults between the age of eighteen and twenty-one the right to vote. The measure is another in a line of constitutional changes that expanded the right to vote to more citizens. At the time of the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, most states limited voting to white, male citizens who were over the age of 21.
It took 82 years for African American slaves to gain a constitutional right to vote, 132 years for women’s suffrage and 183 years for those 18 to 21 years old to join the voting population. The impetus for this change was the passage of amendments to the Voting Rights Act in 1970 that set 18 as the minimum voting age for both federal and state elections.
But when the Supreme Court ruled in Oregon v. Mitchell that the law applied only to federal, not state elections, Congress adopted Amendment XXVI and states quickly ratified it on July 1, 1971.