Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 26th Amendment

How did 18 year olds get the vote? The hidden story...

The 26th Amendment was passed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and ratified July 1, 1971. New Hampshire ratified the 26th Amendment on May 13th, 1971. The 26th amendment granted the right to vote to American citizens aged eighteen or older.

NH House Representative Mel Myler was directly involved with this process and here is what he has to say: "There is a little-known story of the grassroots effort to pass this amendment.  In 1967, I was fortunate to be at the heart of initiating the creation of the Youth Franchise Coalition which became the sponsoring organization/movement to establish enabling 12 million new voters to enable them to participate as voters in the election process."

  • How did they organize?
  • How did they find common ground?
  • What was learned and what are the takeaways for today?


Event format:

  • Live panel discussion with Rep. Mel Myler, Rep. Renny Cushing, Leslie (Les) C. Francis, Ian McGowan, Patricia Keefer, Rep. Safia Wazir, Rep. Joseph Depalma, Rep. Joe Sweeney and Rep. Josh Query
  • Governor's proclamation of the recently adopted  NH HB 273
  • Celebratory song from Katherine Thorner through the Manchester Community Music School
  • Responses and feedback from young leadership in NH 
  • Live Question & Answer session


Video replay


Panelist's Bios:

Rep. Mel Myler

Representative Mel Myler is serving in his fifth term in the NH House of Representatives.  He is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee and past chair of that committee.  He is the retired Executive Director of the NEA New Hampshire and Director of Field Operations for the National Education Association.  In 1967, Mel was the initial organizer of NEA’s Project 18 which founded the Youth Franchise Coalition and ultimately coordinated the grassroots effort to achieve the 26 th  Amendment to the US Constitution.


Rep. Renny Cushing

Representative Cushing is serving his 8th term in the NH House representing Hampton and Winnacunnet HS (Hampton, NH). His local government involvement includes Winnacunnet School District (Moderator, 1994) and NH Constitutional Convention (delegate, vice-chair, 1984)

Leslie (Les) C. Francis

Les Francis is a communications specialist and public affairs strategist with extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. He is a highly regarded policy and opinion leader in national political circles.  

Mr. Francis has worked at the highest level of politics and government at the national level. He was chief of staff to then Representative Norman Y. Mineta (D-CA), and Deputy Assistant and Deputy White House Chief of Staff to President Jimmy Carter. He has managed or advised campaigns for office at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House. And, at different points in his career, served as Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.   

Born and raised in San Jose, CA, Francis was educated in public schools there, and received a BA degree and high school teaching credential from San Jose State University. In 2006, the College of Social Sciences at SJSU recognized him with the first ever Outstanding Graduate award.   For nearly twenty years, Mr. Francis was a faculty member of political communications at George Washington University, where he taught courses in campaign communications and political campaign ethics.  

A major focus of Mr. Francis ’  career and life has been spent in education. He began his career, at the age of 24, as the youngest person ever employed in a professional staff position of the California Teachers Association. Later, working for the National Education Association in Washington, DC, he was one of the original organizers of the campaign that resulted in passage and ratification of the 26 th  Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which extended the franchise to 18-21 year  olds .   


Patricia Keefer

Patricia Keefer, Director, International Affairs Department, American Federation of Teachers; heads the AFT’s advocacy human rights and labor rights worldwide.  She has played a leadership role in political and constitutional reforms in women’s rights, voting rights, and youth political participation in the U.S. and globally as well as democratic development projects in every region of the world.  She served as the on-the ground manager of election and democratic governance programs in many countries; including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.  She is acknowledged for her role as co-chair of the national campaign to amend the U.S. constitution with the ratification of the 26th amendment and is collaborating on a book and virtual historic archive. She attended the University of Cincinnati and holds two appointments at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School Government, Harvard University, as a fellow in political organizing and participation.


Rep. Safiya Wazir

Rep. Safiya Wazir lives in Concord with her husband and three children. After graduating from high school in Concord, NH, she attended college and received a degree in business administration from NHTI. She became a community activist,working with a number of organizations. She has served on the policy council of Head Start. She serves on the board and as treasurer of the Community Action Program of Belknap and Merrimack Counties, and she is on the board of the Merrimack Valley Day Care. She is proud to call Concord her home.  


Rep. Joseph Depalma, IV

Joe DePalma, IV, is a 19 year old rising senior at Plymouth State University, studying Business Administration & Professional Sales. Joe is from Littleton and works for his family's storage container rental business. Joe is an avid trail runner and in his free-time enjoys fly-fishing across the North Country.


Rep. Josh Query

Representative Query is a 2nd term NH State Representative serving Manchester Ward 9 and also serves as the Vice Chair of the NH Stonewall Democrats. Joshua is a graduate of the New Hampshire Institute of Art (Manchester, NH; 2016). 


Rep. Joe Sweeney

Representative Sweeney was elected to the NH House of Representatives in 2012. He is a Republican from Salem, representing Rockingham District 08. He is also currently currently Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.


Video replay


Contact: Wendy Stevens -

See all events
Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 26th Amendment

Our programs in action!

I am ready to go back and teach my students about voting and the court system! Everything was GREAT!
- Teacher, 2016
Looking for More Info?

Please contact us with any questions you may have about any of our programs or would like additional information.

Enews Sign-Up