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U.S. News
26: Voting at age 18

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


In 1965, Barry McGuire's song "Eve of Destruction" had a special poignancy as young men died in Vietnam: "You're old enough to kill, but not for voting." In one of the nation's most turbulent decades, a growing sentiment arose for extending the voting franchise to 18-year-olds. In 1970, Congress did just that, by changing the voting age when it extended the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Federal courts quickly ruled that the new voting age could only apply to elections for federal office. Reaction from the states was just as quick. A constitutional amendment was quickly passed putting the voting age for all elections at 18. In 1972, the first year they were eligible, only half of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds bothered, surprising those who campaigned for the right.

Thirty years after her age group was given the vote, Cherice Tillman, 18, of Homewood, voted in the May 7 primary at the Baptist Temple in Pittsburgh's 13th Ward. Tillman was taken to the polls by a van run by an organization devoted to getting teenagers to vote, even showing them how the machine works.

Amendment XXVI:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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