The Burger Court (1969–86)

First Amendment

Which Burger Court decision led to a Constitutional Amendment?

The Burger Court’s decision in Oregon v. Mitchell (1970) led to the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment ratified faster than any in history. In its decision, the Court ruled 5–4 that Congress did not have the power to pass a law lowering the voting age to 18 in state and local elections. Justice Hugo Black explained: “Since Congress has attempted to invade an area preserved to the States by the Constitution without a foundation for enforcing the Civil War Amendments’ ban on racial discrimination, I would hold that Congress has exceeded its power to lower the voting age in state and local elections.”

The decision caused a public outcry as young men could be sent to fight in the Vietnam War at age 18 but could not vote in state and local elections. This caused the quickest ratification of a constitutional amendment in U.S. history. Section I of the Twenty-sixth Amendment provides: “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.”


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