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LOWERING THE VOTING AGE TO 18
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1970
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:40 a.m., in room 318. Old Senate Office Building, Senator Birch Bayh presiding. Present: Senators Bayh and Cook.
Also present: Paul J. Mode, Jr., chief counsel and Laurie Telden, secretary.
Senator BAYH. I will ask the committee to come to order, if you please. And I will get started by reading a statement of mine. By then we hope that some of our subcommittee members will be present in order to hear our leadoff witnesses.
I ran across an interesting quote in some of the research that our staff has been doing on this matter of lowering the voting age, and it goes as follows:
In the age in which we live, in this fast age, men mature both in body and mind at a great deal earlier period than formerly.
Thus did Marcus Bickford urge lowering the voting age at New York's Constitutional Convention in 1867. One might question whether this was true in 1867, considering the fashion in which our forefathers were living, but there can be no doubt about the wisdom of this statement as we sit here today, more than 100 years later. Today's 18-yearold is surely as qualified to vote in every meaningful respect as the 21-year-old of 1867.
Today more than half of the 18-to-21-year-olds are receiving some type of higher education. Today nearly 80 percent of these young people are high school graduates. It is interesting to compare that with 1920, when less than 20 percent of our youngsters actually graduated from high school.
Of the nearly 11 million 18- to 21-year-olds today, about half are married and more than 1 million of them are responsible for raising families. Today more than 3 million young people, ages 18 to 21, are full-time employees and more importantly taxpayers. Another 1.400,000 are serving their country-its young and its old-in the Armed Forces.
In short, if, as some believe, young people have to earn the right to vote, then I believe that they have met the test.
The great English statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, once remarked a long time ago in assessing the accomplishments of mankind, that "almost everything that is great has been done by youth." And the
interesting thing to note is that all of these accomplishments have been done outside of the political system.
What hope there is, the future is to be found in harnessing the energies and moral conscience of our young people today. The surest -and most just-way to do precisely that is to open the door to full citizenship by lowering the voting age and giving young people a "piece of the action."
Can we, in good conscience, expect youth to work within the system when we deny them that very opportunity? The contradiction is too great. It should not survive. It will not survive. And that is why we are here today.
In April 1969, a Representation of the People Act was passed in Great Britain. Behind that rather stuffy title-Representation of the People was a simple law that enfranchised 18-year-olds, gave them the right to vote in Great Britain. It is interesting to note that this law, giving 18-year-old citizens of Great Britain the right to vote, takes effect today.
In commenting on the passage of the Representation of the People Act, a recent newspaper columnist pointed out that:
Since young Americans, like young Britishers, are today more educated, more intelligent, and more politically concerned than ever before, it is most probable that sometime within the next decade the voting age in this country will also be lowered to 18.
The article concluded that:
The movement is already underway and is daily gathering momentum.
As one who has been actively involved in the fight to lower the voting age since my days in the Indiana General Assembly, more years ago than I like to remember. I can say that we begin these hearings today with an air of what I think could be called guarded optimism about the future of 18-year-old voting-not because the article said, "it is most probable that sometime within the next decade” it will become a reality but because we hope that indeed it will become a reality.
I can well recall the hearings I had the opportunity of chairing in May 1968 on an identical amendment proposed by our distinguished colleague from West Virginia. At that time, I believe, Senator Randolph's proposal had only a handful of cosponsors for the proposed constitutional amendment. The proposed constitutional amendment we are considering today, in marked contrast, has as cosponsors more than the required two-thirds to pass the Senate.
As one of the cosponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 147, I am particularly pleased by the strong bipartisan support it has attracted. But, then, efforts to lower the voting age have had that kind of support.
Senator Arthur Vandenburg proposed the first constitutional amendment to lower the voting age back in 1941.
In 1954 President Eisenhower, in his state of the Union message, made this appeal.
President Kennedy spoke forcefully of the need to involve young people in the political process and saw a lower voting age as a step in this direction.
In 1968, in a special message to Congress, President Johnson suggested that the voting age should be lowered.
More recently in the political party structure of our country the Democratic Party platform in 1968 pledged the party to "support a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18."
The Republican Party platform, while it did not favor a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age, called on the States, individually, "to reevaluate their positions with respect to 18-yearolds voting."
President Nixon, many times during the campaign, expressed his support for lowering the voting age to 18.
In view of this overwhelming support for this measure from all segments of the political spectrum, and thanks to the untiring efforts of Senator Randolph to tie them all together, I feel we are closer today to the enfranchisement of our younger citizens than ever before.
What has so far been the missing ingredient in our efforts to lower the voting age is missing no longer. We now have, it seems to me, a working alliance between young and old, Democrat and Republican, scholar and businessman, citizens from all across the country who are determined to press forward on every front. I am hopeful that these hearings-at which we will hear from all segments of our population-will mark a major step toward the successful completion of this effort.
This could come at no more appropriate time, it seems to me, in our history. For 1970 is, as many of you know, the 50th anniversary of the League of Women Voters. The League very fittingly has designated 1970 as the "Year of the Voter." They have expressed their support for electoral reform. In addition to commemorating the 100th anniversary of Negro suffrage and the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage, I hope that we can mark 1970 as the birth of truly universal suffrage in America-by lowering the voting age and thus completing the long and historic democratic journey this Nation began in 1789.
It is appropriate this morning that our leadoff witness is our distinguished colleague, the senior Senator from West Virginia, who has really been the father of this movement, who has been not only one of the supporters, but who has been the one who has been prodding and organizing and moving toward what we hope will be ultimately the enactment of this measure. Busy as he is, we appreciate his taking the time to be our leadoff witness. Senator Randolph, if you would give us your testimony, we would be deeply appreciative.
STATEMENT OF HON. JENNINGS RANDOLPH, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
Senator RANDOLPH. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I am very happy to have the privilege of appearing before the subcommittee. You said you are glad I could give the time this morning. I can give the time this morning and almost every morning to the advocacy of this proposal. I am grateful for the presence of you, the able
chairman, and of our colleague from Kentucky, Senator Cook. Both of the men who sit at the table this morning, the chairman and Senator Cook are cosponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 147. Perhaps it would be appropriate at the outset if agreeable with you, Mr. Chairman, to include at this point a copy of the resolution with the names of the 68 Senators who have affixed their signatures. Senator BAYH. Without objection, so ordered. We will put it in
(The matter follows:)
S.J. Res. 147, 91st Cong. 1st sess.
JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States extending the right to vote to citizens eighteen years of age or older
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:
"SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
"SEC. 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress."
Senator RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, our attention today is fixed on an issue directly affecting approximately 11 million Americans— our citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 and their right to participate in the democratic process by means of the ballot.
I am gratified that the able chairman, Mr. Bayh, and this subcommittee have convened these hearings to develop a record on the proposed constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18. It is my privilege to support as earnestly as I can the proposal. I am gratified understandably, that it is my resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 147, with 67 cosponsors, that is our subject for today and for the hearing or hearings that follow.
Senators are interested in this subject, they are concerned about this issue? My interest and concern in behalf of such a change, as you have indicated very thoughtfully and I am grateful, are not new. They cover, Mr. Chairman, a span of some 28 years beginning when I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was in 1942 that I introduced my first resolution. I recall the first congressional hearing on this issue conducted by the then ranking majority member of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Emmanuel Celler. The date I shall always remember, October 20. 1943. The hearing just referred to was on a resolution I had introduced.
Mr. Chairman and Senator Cook, I have been patient. I have continued this effort because I believed that it was the right thing to do. Numerous resolutions have been before the Congress to effect such a change. Hearings have been conducted including those chaired by you, Mr. Chairman, in 1968. But only once has this issue reached
the floor of the Senate or House. That was in 1954, late on a Friday afternoon in May after the hour of 4:30 p.m. The Senate defeated a proposed constitutional amendment by a vote of 34 yeas to 24 nays. The resolution failed by two votes.
Mr. Chairman, there are many young people in this audience today, and I am very grateful that they are present. You and the Senators that will conduct this hearing know what I am now to say, but I think they might be interested in knowing that a constitutional amendment must be passed in the Senate by two-thirds of the Senators who are present and voting.
The true test of American citizenship is the ability of an individual to use the ballot, the vote is each person's role in the governing process. It is the greatest responsibility available equally to all American citizens.
However, 11 million Americans-educated, motivated, and involved Americans cannot participate in the electoral process. We tell them, as many people tell them, that they are not ready for such responsibility. They are too immature. A mixing of all of the ages I think is a valuable ingredient of an across-the-board American electoral process.
Yet at 18, Mr. Chairman, in 39 States one or both sexes can marry without parental consent. In 26 States they can make wills. In all States they can have unrestricted driver's licenses. They are subject to personal income tax. They are covered by social security taxes. In 49 States they are treated as adults in criminal courts of law. I emphasize this fact. In all States except one, an 18-year-old youth, by law, is treated as an adult in criminal court, fully responsible for his or her actions. In all States juvenile rights can be waived at the discretion of the court for even younger defendants. These young people are certainly being held responsible for their actions and the outgrowth of their actions, which in many cases often plague them for the rest of their lives.
They are drafted into the military service. They are on the battlefield faced with the alternatives of kill or be killed. Immaturity is incompatible with what we expect of them under these circum
Mr. Chairman and Senator Cook, on January 28, 1968, the Pueblo with 83 men was captured by North Korea. There were 18 men aboard doing their duty for our country under the age of 21. We not only expected them to bear the brunt of the physical and mental strain and torture while prisoners of North Korea, but we subjected them later on to a court of inquiry.
It takes time to change habits and customs. A voting age of 21 is the result of an old practice, centuries old, dating from the Roman Empire when this was the age of majority. Slowly we have been changing this custom. It is past time, long past, Mr. Chairman, that we act to lower the voting age in the United States of America.
I will ask your permission to incorporate with my statement, material including appropriate articles, editorials, and other printed documents that I feel will be helpful in connection with my state