Rock the Vote, but When?

Rock the Vote, but When?
Pat Nixon: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


In 1971, during Richard Nixon's presidency, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving the vote to all citizens 18 years of age and older.  Since then, at least until 2004, the number of 18-21 year-olds who have actually voted has not been high.  What do YOU think the voting age should be?


Students who participate in this activity will learn about voting turnouts in the U.S. and around the world, about various aspects of the so-called "youth vote," and have an opportunity to consider the meaning of the vote in a democracy.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to world almanacs or other print materials with data on voting.


1.  Begin the lesson by asking students if they know what the current voting age is, and what they think the voting age should be.
2.  Using the websites listed  below, divide students into five groups, each of which should research one of the following: 
  • the 26th Amendment to the Constitution
  • the argument in the 60s for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18
  • a survey of voting turnouts in the U.S. and around the world
  • issues of the so-called "youth vote"
  • what has been the youth vote in recent years
3.  When their research is completed, have students prepare some kind of presentation on their findings to the class: a written report, or a PowerPoint presentation, or posters; etc.
4.  Engage them in a discussion about their thinking on the issue of voting at 18: is it a good idea? Why or why not? Why don't more 18-year-olds actually vote?

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by having students take a poll of other students, their parents, and other adults on the issue of the voting age: should it be reconsidered?

Sources & Resources:


            26th Amendment 

             A Brief History of the Amendments for Voting
            Timeline of the History of Voting   
            An International Perspective on Voting
            All About the Youth Vote
            Civic Learning and Engagement
            The Youth Vote Counts


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, and developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.