Abstract

Abstract:

In 1943, Georgia's constitution was amended to lower the voting age to eighteen, making it the first—and for twelve years, the only—state in the Union to establish a voting-age requirement below twenty-one. Despite being widely considered at the time by several national and state political actors, Georgia's reform represents an important and unappreciated historical puzzle. First, few would regard mid-twentieth-century Georgia as being even modestly progressive, especially regarding voting rights. Second, there is no evidence that an organized group lobbied for the reform. Further, there is no reason why lowering the voting age was inherently unique to Georgia qua Georgia. Instead, this study offers a detailed historical analysis highlighting the dedication of its young governor, and argues that Ellis Arnall's political entrepreneurialism coupled with growing intraparty factionalism in Georgian politics and strategic timing facilitated this rare instance of electoral progressivism in the Deep South.

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