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It's Been 5 Decades Since States Ratified The 26th Amendment


For any 18-year-olds who voted in this past election, they have the 26th Amendment to thank. Fifty years ago this month, the states ratified that amendment.


This is how it sounded on NPR's All Things Considered back in 1971.


MIKE WATERS: A new force has emerged in American politics. The politicians refer to it as the kid factor. As a result of the recently passed 26th Amendment, young people between the ages of 18 and 21 have now won the right to vote.

INSKEEP: ...According to then-NPR host Mike Waters.

PFEIFFER: And if you know your NPR trivia, you'll know that was the same year we went on the air for the first time. So we're taking a few moments to celebrate some of the other newsworthy events of 1971.

INSKEEP: More than 11 million people gained the right to vote through the passage of the 26th Amendment. Shortly after its ratification, NPR talked with law professor Richard Hollow (ph) about why the amendment was needed.


RICHARD HOLLOW: The 18-year-old has had the responsibility of serving in the armed services of the United States, and this has been used as a traditional argument in favor of 18-year-olds being allowed the right to vote.

PFEIFFER: A common slogan for the youth voting rights movement was old enough to fight, old enough to vote. Today, a new generation of teens are fighting for their right to vote with a slogan of their own.

ANJALI KRISHNAMURTI: Old enough to pay income taxes - while some of us pay income taxes - old enough to vote.

PFEIFFER: That's 16-year-old Anjali Krishnamurti. She's part of an organization called Vote 16 USA. It advocates for lowering the voting age to 16 at the local, state and federal levels.

KRISHNAMURTI: Sixteen- and 17-year-olds should be able to vote because we are involved in the issues that come across America. And we have to sit there and watch it without any representation, even though we are so civically engaged.

INSKEEP: And this year, the 50th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, three members of Congress have reintroduced an amendment that would lower the federal voting age to 16. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.