CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Secretary of State Mac Warner announces that his office will celebrate the 47th anniversary of the passage of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution with students from two Raleigh County high schools Friday.
Independence High School and Shady Spring High School will be presented with the Jennings Randolph Award Friday, March 23rd.
The first Jennings Randolph Award will be presented to Independence High School in Sophia, WV, at 9 a.m. Independence student Kyle Saunders and Principal Rick Shupe will lead a ceremony that will feature local dignitaries and the presentation of the Jennings Randolph Award. Saunders was one of the organizers of the voter registration effort at Independence, and was named an Honorary Secretary of State.
The second award will be presented to Shady Spring High School in Shady Spring at 1 p.m. Shady Spring students Jaron Bragg and Zachary Meador were also recognized as Honorary Secretaries of State for helping to register their classmates to vote.
The Jennings Randolph Award is given by the Secretary of State to a high school that registers 100 percent of its eligible students to vote. These voter registration efforts are student-led projects and resulted in 139 new voter registrations at Independence High School and 153 new voter registrations at Shady Spring High School. In the 2017-2018 school year, so far only 25 high schools have earned this very special recognition.
Raleigh County Clerk Danny Moore will attend both presentations. Clerk Moore and his staff assisted the students with their voter registration drives.
The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave young Americans who are 18, 19 and 20-years old the right to vote. The amendment was passed by Congress on March 23, 2917, before heading to the states for ratification. The lead sponsor on the legislation and the author of the amendment was U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia.
In 1942 during World War II, then President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order reducing the age for Selective Service for young men to 18 years old. At that time, citizens had to be 21 years old to register to vote.
Randolph, a Harrison County native and former reporter with the Clarksburg Daily Telegram (now the Exponent-Telegram), was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1933. His philosophy was that “...if you’re old enough to fight, then you should be old enough to vote”. Randolph first introduced legislation creating the 26th Amendment in 1943. He unsuccessfully introduced the legislation three separate times as a member of the House of Representatives – all failed.
Then in 1958, Randolph was elected to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate. In 1962, as the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam were escalating and requiring more troops, then-Senator Randolph reintroduced the 26th Amendment legislation. It was the first of eight attempts to get the legislation passed.
The eighth time was the winner. In 1971 during the height of the Vietnam War, Randolph’s message of “Old Enough to Fight – Old Enough to Vote!” swept the country. Public sentiment for giving young soldiers and their peers the right to vote made its way to the United States Capitol.
By March 23, 1971, both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had overwhelmingly passed the legislation creating the Amendment. On April 28, 1971, in a statewide vote of its citizens, West Virginia became the 27th state to ratify the Amendment. The Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971.
On July 5th of that year in a ceremony at the White House, then-President Richard Nixon signed the ratified certification officially creating the 26th Amendment to the Constitution (video
). Three 18-year-old students signed the certification as official witnesses to the President’s signature. One of those witnesses was Joseph Lloyd - then a student from Michigan. For the last 30 years, Mr. Lloyd has spent his professional career working in Charleston, WV.
With the signature of President Nixon, some 11 million 18, 19 and 20-year-olds throughout the United States were granted the right to vote.
In January of 1972, Ella Mae Thompson, then a student at Davis & Elkins College, became the first official 18-year-old in the United States to register to vote. In 1966, her only brother was killed in the Vietnam War. She was personally escorted to the Randolph County Clerk’s Office to register to vote by none other than U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph himself.
Ella May Thompson Haddix became a teacher and spent her career in Randolph County where she still serves as a substitute.
In his first year as Secretary of State in 2017, Secretary Warner initiated an annual recognition program to celebrate the 26th Amendment because of West Virginia’s unique history associated with the passage of the Amendment.
President Richard M. Nixon and three of the "Young Americans in Concert" (Julianne Jones, Joseph W. Loyd, Jr., and Paul S. Larimer) witnessed the certification of the amendment by Robert Kunzig, Administration of General Services. President Nixon and the three young people also signed as witnesses. Photo Courtesy/ Richard Nixon Presidential Library