“Let Us Vote!”: Youth Voting Rights and the 26th Amendment

New York Univ. Dec. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9781479811328. $39. POL SCI
Frost (history, Univ. of Auckland; “An Interracial Movement of the Poor”: Community Organizing and the New Left) explores the struggle for youth voting rights in the United States. Her comprehensive study of youth suffrage’s major players starts in 1942, when U.S. Rep. Jennings Randolph introduced (unsuccessful) legislation to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. In January 1971, Randolph introduced similar legislation for the 11th time, and in March 1971, Congress finally passed a constitutional amendment which was ratified by 38 states that July. Frost argues that youth suffrage was initially tied to the World War II draft. Liberals, the National Education Association, and civil rights movement leaders were the driving forces, but there was always strong bipartisan support for lowering the voting age, she writes, and the eventual 26th Amendment was almost anticlimactic. News of its ratification was eclipsed by the Supreme Court’s Pentagon Papers decision, and turnout among youth voters was lower than expected in the 1972 presidential election (and would remain low until 2008’s election, Frost writes).
VERDICT This book can be read as a case study of the laborious U.S. legislative process, set against the changing political landscape of the 1960s. Readers interested in U.S. politics will appreciate Frost’s research.
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