In 2021, America celebrates the 26th Amendment’s 50th anniversary, changing the voting age from 21 to 18. WV has a special place in the celebration, and continuing to exemplify the value of its legacy.
The late West Virginia U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph of Harrison County believed if citizens were old enough to fight and die for their country, then they were old enough to vote for their leaders. He introduced the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 a total of 11 times before Congress approved it in 1971 and sent it to the states for ratification.
It took just 100 days for the necessary three-fourths of states to ratify, and on July 5, 1971, President Richard Nixon formally certified the 26th Amendment of the Constitution. With Nixon’s stroke of the pen, 11 million potential voters were added to the electorate. Half of these young voters cast their ballots in the 1972 presidential election.
Today, West Virginia continues to honor the late U.S. Senator’s legacy with the Jennings Randolph Award, and by encouraging youthful engagement in our civic discourse. The WV Secretary of State presents The Jennings Randolph Award annually to high schools that register at least 85 percent of their eligible students to vote, and instructs students on ways to participate in government.
In 2021, West Virginia will recognize Senator Randolph’s unique role in the 26th Amendment and the 50th Anniversary of its passage.
Stay tuned for more information.
November 11, 1942: President Franklin Roosevelt reduced the military draft age from 21 to 18 in an effort to bolster troop support during World War II.
February 1943: Then Congressman Jennings Randolph (D-WV), a native of Harrison County, proposed legislation reducing the voting age to 18 saying "If you're old enough to fight and give your life for this country, then you are old enough to vote for its leaders."
November 4, 1958: Jennings Randolph (D-WV) elected to the United States Senate.
May 1962: Senator Randolph re-introduced legislation reducing the voting age to 18 in the form of the 26th Amendment.
March 10, 1971: Nearly three decades after the draft age was reduced to 18 years of age, the 26th Amendment passes the U.S. Senate on a 94-0 vote.
March 23, 1971: 26th Amendment passes the U.S. House of Representatives on a 401-19 vote. Then the Amendment was sent to the states for ratification.
April 28, 1971: The WV Legislature ratified the 26th Amendment becoming the 27th state to do so.
July 1, 1971: North Carolina became the 38th state to ratify the 26th Amendment, thus meeting the three-fourths requirement for the Amendment to become law. This was the fastest ratification process for any US Constitutional Amendment to become law.
July 5, 1971: President Richard Nixon officially signs the "Certificate of Amendment" announcing the passage and ratification of the 26th Amendment in a ceremony at the White House. With a stroke of his pen, 11 million new voters (ages 18-20) were granted the right to vote. Joseph Loyd, a young musician from Detroit, was one of three students selected to attend the signing ceremony. Loyd later moved to WV.
February 11, 1972: Ella Mae Thompson Haddix became the first 18-year old in America to register to vote. She registered in the office of the Randolph County Clerk and she was accompanied by U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph. She registered Republican.
May 13, 2014: While a high school senior, 17-year old Saira Blair (R-Berkeley County) was nominated in Berkeley County's Primary Election for the WV House of Delegates.
November 4, 2014: 18-year old Saira Blair (R-Berkeley County) won election to the WV House of Delegates making her the youngest elected legislator in the history of the United States.
November 6, 2018: Just seven days after his 19th birthday, Caleb Hanna (R-Nicholas County) won election to the WV House of Delegates, District 44, making him the youngest black state legislator elected in the history of the United States.
If we may be of any further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us: 304.558.6000 toll free 866.767.8683 email: Communications@wvsos.gov