Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of July our theme is elections.
In 1971, North Carolina voted to ratify the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, lowering the federal voting age from 21 years to 18 years. The change was influenced through student activism– protests of the Vietnam War coupled with the rationalization that if a person could die for their country, they should also have the ability to vote. With the slogan, “Old Enough to fight, old enough to vote,” on their lips, draft-age individuals made their case known.
In 1970, an attempt to lower the minimum voting age was made through an amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which adjusted the age to 18 for federal, state and local elections. This change was struck down shortly after by the Supreme Court in the case Oregon v. Mitchell, the decision claimed that the voting age could only be adjusted for federal elections and not for state or local.
The 26th Amendment was passed a year later needing three-fourths of the fifty states to ratify it (38 states). North Carolina passed the amendment on July 1, 1971; the 38th state needed to ensure the amendment would be added to the United States Constitution. The amendment 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.”
Interestingly, the amendment has never been ratified in Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, or Utah.