Voting Rights for Millennials: Breathing New Life into the Twenty-Sixth Amendment

26 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017 Last revised: 23 May 2017

See all articles by Jenny Cheng

Jenny Cheng

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: April 9, 2017


Millennials are now the largest generation in the United States, and they are the most likely to identify as liberal Democrats. Their access to the ballot has become a political and legal flashpoint, with a growing number of young people arguing that Republican-dominated state legislatures have enacted voter restrictions deliberately to suppress their vote. This article focuses on legal challenges to state voting laws based on the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which lowered the minimum voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. These are novel claims and courts have struggled with how to interpret the Amendment. I argue that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, as an analogue to the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibits intentional voter discrimination on the basis of age. As I demonstrate, the federal courts that have heard these claims are haltingly moving towards this same interpretation. However, I offer a newly strong theoretical basis for reading the Twenty-Sixth Amendment this way by emphasizing the Amendment's text rather than its history. I also suggest that demographic changes in the United States are blurring the line between voter discrimination based on age and that based on race.

Keywords: voting rights, Twenty-Sixth Amendment, intertextualism

Suggested Citation

Cheng, Jenny, Voting Rights for Millennials: Breathing New Life into the Twenty-Sixth Amendment (April 9, 2017). Syracuse Law Review, Forthcoming; Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-27. Available at SSRN: or

Jenny Cheng (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-2615 (Phone)

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