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Posts Tagged ‘voting rights’

“Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote.”

Many young people may not realize it wasn’t until 46 years ago that teenagers gained the right to vote. The voting age started to become a controversy during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for the military draft to 18. Many young people felt it was unfair to be required to fight in the war without the right to have a say in the policies of the nation through voting. The youth voting rights movement began with the slogan, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

From 1942 to 1971, Rudolph Jennings of West Virginia, as a congressman and later as a senator, brought 11 pieces of legislation to Congress to lower the voting age to 18 but was unsuccessful. Only a handful of states lowered the voting below 21 and only Georgia and Kentucky allowed voting at age 18.

The 1960s brought the issue to a head at a time when young people were at the center of civic involvement. They often participated in marches, sit-ins, and other forms of protest on civil rights issues for blacks, women, and to end the war in Vietnam. Again a war was the impetus to fuel the movement.

On June 22, 1970, Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act to apply to age and allow voting at age 18. After challenges to the law and a ruling at the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could only regulate the age in federal elections not State or local, support swelled for an amendment that would set a uniform voting age of 18 in all elections.

On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted in favor of the 26th Amendment and it went to the states for ratification. On June 30, 1971, the amendment was considered officially ratified. On July 5, 2017 the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The youth turnout was 55.4% in 1972 but then declined over the years reaching 36% in the 1988 election. The tide dramatically turned in the 2008 election of Barack Obama with a youth vote turnout of 49% which is the second highest in history.

The Current Debate

The current controversy with voting age is a call to reduce the age further to 16. As young people have access to more information than ever before, many teens and youth advocates are calling for lowering the voting age. Some countries, such as Austria and Nicaragua, have reduced their minimum voting age to 16.

Proponents say a lower voting age would focus attention on issues of particular interest to young adults. But some say younger teens are still learning about the democratic process and may not yet know how to be responsible citizens. These critics argue that, at 16, children are too immature to vote.

Educators, find the latest coverage of this issue in the SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issue: Voting Age and in the eLibrary Research Topic: Voting Age.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher or elibrary? Request a free trial.

96 Years After the 19th Amendment, the First Female Presidential Candidate

“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.

Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.

Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.

Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House [public domain] via Library of Congress

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House
[public domain] via Library of Congress

1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.

1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.

1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.

1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.

Sandra Day O'Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O'Connor Looks On [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Sandra Day O’Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O’Connor Looks On
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.

1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.

1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.

1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.

2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention
By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!

Discoverer In the News: Voting Rights Act

March for Black Suffrage

Demonstrators participating in a march for black suffrage.
by Bruce Davidson/Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, gave African American men the right to vote. But some people in Southern states did not agree with the amendment, and so passed discriminatory laws that made it hard for African Americans to cast their votes. Some parts of the South enacted a poll tax or forced black people to take a literacy test. Sometimes white Southerners harassed or intimidated African Americans when they tried to register to vote.

Almost 100 years later, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act was passed. This 1965 civil law made voter discrimination illegal. So all of the local election rules that made it difficult for African Americans to register to vote or cast a vote were now against national law.

The Voting Rights Act has been upheld by Congress several times. However, in June 2013, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 prohibits states with a history of voter discrimination from making new election rules without special permission. Some people agree with this decision, others do not.

What do you think of this controversial decision? Check out this month’s “Discoverer In the News” feature and decide for yourself. Quiz yourself on the Voting Rights Act and decipher the meaning of an editorial cartoon on this topic.