On 22 June 1970, President Nixon signed into law several amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, despite his reservations regarding one amendment in particular: the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970 included an amendment that lowered the voting age to 18 for all Federal, State, and local elections. Although a proponent of the 18-year-old vote, President Nixon felt that Congress was not within its rights to lower the voting age without a Constitutional amendment. Nevertheless, RN chose not to veto the bill, but rather to submit it to a court test of its constitutionality.
If I were to veto, I would have to veto the entire bill–voting rights and all. If the courts hold the voting-age provisions unconstitutional, however, only that one section of the act will be affected. Because the basic provisions of this act are of great importance, therefore, I am giving it my approval and leaving the decision on the disputed provision to what I hope will be a swift resolution by the courts.
President Nixon supported the rest of the amendments to the Voting Rights Act and he deemed the bill too important to veto for the sake of the 18-year-old vote provision. The amendments would abolish literacy tests, a measure which history shows us was crucial in the expansion of the franchise, and would also eliminate residency requirements for State elections. In his statement he highlighted the successes of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and expressed his confidence that the new amendments would prove to be equally successful.
To close his statement on the Voting Rights Act Amendments, RN turned back to the issue of the 18-year-old vote. Anticipating that the court test would rule the provision in question unconstitutional, President Nixon called for an immediate constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18:
The time has also come to give 18-yearolds the vote, as I have long urged. The way to do this is by amending the Constitution. Because of the likelihood that the 18-year-old vote provision of this law will not survive its court test, the constitutional amendment pending before the Congress should go forward to the States for ratification now.
I therefore call upon the Congress to act now upon the constitutional amendment to avoid undue delay in its approval by the States should this provision of the new law be held unconstitutional.
As predicted, the Supreme Court declared the act’s 18-year-old vote provision unconstitutional in December of 1970, but less than a year later, in July 1971, Congress passed the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which set the minimum voting age for all Federal, State, and local elections at eighteen years of age