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On July 1st, 1971, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, lowering the voting age in the United States to 18. The ratification of this amendment was a direct result of sustained advocacy by young Americans who spoke out against the fact that they could be drafted into war but did not have the right to vote. 

The struggle for voting rights and the freedom to cast a ballot has existed since the founding of the United States. Even after historic progress was made on voting rights by movements like the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 20th century and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, targeted attempts to suppress the votes of some Americans—particularly Black Americans—has underscored the need to better enshrine the freedom to vote into law and take practical measures to ensure that voting is accessible. The ruling made by a partisan majority of the Supreme Court today in the case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which further undermines the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is yet another example of this fact.  

Brent J. Cohen, the executive director of Generation Progress, released the following statement in response to today’s anniversary:

“In November 2020, young people demonstrated the immense electoral power of their generations—the most diverse generations in American history. Despite targeted voter suppression efforts and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, turnout of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 was eleven points higher than it was for the 2016 election. Unfortunately, some politicians are responding to this historic turnout by trying to deny young people the right to vote and creating deliberate barriers to block them from casting a ballot.

Young people deserve better. On this historic anniversary, we must recommit to the promise of the 26th Amendment and the centuries-long fight for voting rights in the United States by urging Congress to pass the For the People Act (S.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4).”

For more information or to speak with an expert, email eleach@americanprogress.org.

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