Full Promise of Twenty-Sixth Amendment Remains Unfilled 50 Years Later

Constitutional amendment lowered national voting age from 21 to 18 and outlawed age discrimination in voting.

March 23 marks the 50th anniversary of Congress proposing the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which guaranteed all Americans aged 18 and older the right to vote in all United States elections and outlawed age discrimination among eligible voters. The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) is celebrating the youth vote while recognizing that barriers facing young people, particularly youth of color, demonstrate that the U.S. has not fulfilled the full promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.

Young people have often been at the forefront of change. Today’s youngest generations are also the most diverse in U.S. history, and achieving the full promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment goes hand-in-hand with striving for racial justice and equity for everyone, including young people.

When the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was signed into law fifty years ago, it was built on the recognition that young people provide the courage, stamina, and high moral purpose that this nation needs as it goes through ebbs and flows of idealism. Today, youth political engagement is at an all-time high, despite attempts to shut them out. The record youth turnout, especially by youth of color, in the 2020 election has been met with seven times the number of bills to restrict voting access compared to this time last year. It is our responsibility to fulfill the promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment by opposing these discriminatory laws.

Today’s young voters face many barriers to voting, such as complicated registration processes, strict voter ID laws, inaccessible polling places, and vote-by-mail restrictions. This year’s anniversary highlights the importance of breaking down those barriers and supporting youth voting rights activism in creating a more diverse and equitable democracy.