Federal refers to the national government. The voting age is determined by the federal government while the driving age is decided on a state by state basis.

Before the Constitution was ratified, the United States was a loose confederation of states, with no real federal government. The Constitution created a stronger federal government but to this day, there is a conflict between those who want power to go to the states and those who support federal control. States don't seem to mind federal subsidies though.

Definitions of federal
  1. adjective
    characterized by or constituting a form of government in which power is divided between one central and several regional authorities
    “a federal system like that of the United States”
    federal governments often evolved out of confederations”
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    characterized by or constituting a form of government in which power is held by one central authority
  2. adjective
    of or relating to the central government of a federation
    “a federal district is one set aside as the seat of the national government”
  3. adjective
    national; especially in reference to the government of the United States as distinct from that of its member units
    federal courts”
    “the federal highway program”
    federal property”
    concerned with or applicable to or belonging to an entire nation or country
Word Family

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