Discover more from Okay History
We rank the next amendment that makes being eighteen cool.
I turned eighteen in 1994. What a year that was.
Movies like Forest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption were released. The television sitcom Friends debuted, showing us an unrealistic look at six single people living in New York City, where they spend too much time at a coffee shop rather than working six jobs to pay off their student loans.
OJ Simpson rode in the back of a White Ford Bronco to evade police because he didn’t murder his ex-wife and her friend in front of her house. Harry Styles was born. So was Dakota Fanning. Justin Bieber also entered the world in 1994.
The Church of England ordained thirty-three women priests, while Tanya Harding kneecapped fellow American Olympian skater Nancy Kerrigan.
John Candy passed away unexpectedly, while Howard Stern unexpectedly ran for governor of New York as a Libertarian.
Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, the writer of the majority opinion in the Roe vs. Wade case, resigned. Stephen Breyer would replace him.
1994 was the year Pulp Fiction was released, reintroducing us to John Travolta. Barbara Streisand reintroduced herself with her first concert tour in thirty years.
Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson. Larry King ended his radio show to focus more on television.
Pop artist Seal released Kiss From A Rose, which won the Grammy for Song of the Year.
Jordan and Israel agreed to end their 46-year-old war. The first gay parade in Japan took place in 1994.
The last troops from France, Britain, and the United States left West Berlin. The 1994 World Series was canceled.
George Clooney starred in the new NBC drama ER, which aired after Friends.
Susan Smith claimed black people kidnaped her children. Pink Floyd played their final concert tour.
14-year-old Venus Williams made her professional tennis debut with a win over a former NCAA champion.
A conference was held in San Francisco to discuss the World Wide Web.
So many things happened in 1994.
I was also eligible to vote, thanks to the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, lowering the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.
Let’s dive in.
18: Amendment XXVI
Its purpose: The right of United States citizens who are eighteen years or older, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State based on age.
Year proposed: 1971
Year Ratified: 1971
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment is the second fastest amendment to be ratified, just behind the Twelfth, and completed in four months.
However, the journey to ratification began in the 1940s when the United States started to draft men eighteen years old from the previous twenty.
Despite the support to lower the voting age, steadfast opposition remained in place over the decades until the war in Vietnam broke out, and protests across the country from young people demanded their voices be heard.
President Lyndon Johnson took that to heart in 1968 when he began the formal push to lower the voting age in response. There were starts and stops. Finally, circumstances aligned to see it through.
Its ratification demonstrated that consistent determination by legislators could accomplish anything, especially when the time is right.
Oh, and eighteen-year-olds are perfectly capable of voting. That’s pretty good.
The debate raged on whether the issue could be done by simple legislation or a Constitutional amendment, and by 1971, the amendment plan won the day. But it wasn’t the first choice.
Congress did try and pass legislation to lower the voting age. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which regulated voting, including bans on litmus tests. In 1970, Congress passed amendments to the act declaring that states had to open the right to vote to eighteen-year-olds.
Oregon objected, saying Congress overstepped its authority over states. Oregon vs. Mitchell, the Supreme Court struck down the amendments stating Congress could only set voting ages for federal elections, while individual states could do their own.
The Mitchell, in this case, was United States Attorney General John Mitchell, who argued that Oregon’s position was silly. That’s the best summary I could come up with.
Either way, the Supreme Court provided that the only way to lower the voting age was through an amendment because states realized they didn’t want to mess with two different types of ballots.
Good work, everyone.
Justification for lowering the age was initially supported by the idea that since we drafted eighteen-year-olds for war, they should be allowed to vote.
One person who disagreed with this premise was Manny Cellar, a Brooklyn Congressman, who didn’t have very nice things to say about the youth of America.
The Congressman stated that young people lacked good judgment and that the idea that since they could be drafted to go to war, they should be allowed to vote was silly. He used the John Mitchell defense before it was a thing.
Cellar would continue to beat the drum that common sense, which isn’t real, tells us that voting restrictions are sound policies for an effective electorate. He despised the “teenage vote” but could do nothing after the Oregon vs. Mitchell verdict.
The Teenage Vote was on the train and headed toward law.
Cellar did take advantage of the situation. He got onboard and claimed he conducted the entire trip while patting himself on the back.
Seriously, after the amendment passed the House, Cellar humbly proclaimed that during his long tenure in the House, he had sponsored or co-sponsored four Constitutional Amendments that he was incredibly proud of.
In his defense, he did preface the entire declaration with “I say this will all due modesty….” We feel you, Manny.
Who proposed it?
West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph. Randolph first proposed the amendment in 1942 when he was Congressman Jennings Randolph. You can do the math here.
It was passed in the 118th Congress, with five states ratifying the amendment on the same day the House passed the proposal by a vote of 401-19. The Senate passed it 1994-0. Excuse me, 94-0.
Why did I rank it here?
This is one of many right-to-vote Amendments and easily the lowest priority. You’ll notice I have yet to rank the others yet.
Despite protests against the Vietnam War, there wasn’t a coordinated effort to push for lowering the voting age. Name one person who advocated for a lower voting age.
Now name the people who pushed for abolition and women’s suffrage.
See the difference?
People 18-21 did not vote in large numbers, despite the increase of Baby Boomers to the election polls when the amendment came online. After passage, Republicans were worried that the youth vote would go to Democratic nominee George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election. Instead, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew took 52%.
They would both resign a couple of years later, so maybe Manny was right after all. Eighteen-year-olds are capable of voting as long their votes align with mine.
It’s just common sense.
Placing the Twenty-Six Amendment at 18 just feels okay. It’s like how I describe being 18.
It was just okay.
Okay History is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Okay, let me know what you think of my ranking.
Please take a moment to hit the like button or comment on your thoughts on 1994.
This is the last low-key weekend before Anonymous and I ramp up our travel over the summer. I plan on golfing, reading, and writing since I did plenty of house chores last week. I say this with all due modesty.
Finally, I plan to make a special weekend announcement concerning growing the Okay History community. The usual Maundy Monday Newsletter will return at its regular time.
Thanks for your continued support of Okay History. I hope the weekend is a good one!