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Universal suffrage

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The concept of universal suffrage, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all except a small number of adult citizens (or subjects).[1] As minors are generally excluded, the concept is frequently described as universal adult suffrage. Many countries make an exception for small numbers of adults that are considered mentally incapable of voting. Other countries also exclude people convicted of serious crimes or people in jail, but this is considered a violation of a basic human right in an increasing number of countries. In some countries, including the United States, it is very difficult and expensive for convicted criminals to regain this right even after having served their jail sentence. In any case, where universal suffrage exists, the right to vote is not restricted by race, sex, belief, wealth, or social status.

Although it took or is taking a long time in many countries before women got or get the right to run for office even after getting the right to vote, there are still no commonly used clear terms to differentiate between these different rights. It is therefore usually best to avoid the little known and ambivalent terms used to make this distinction and to instead clearly say whether one is referring to only men or also women having only the right to vote or also the right to run for office. It is important to be careful in reading and using the term universal suffrage because it historically referred to only all adult males and even today is often used to refer to historical or contemporary situations in which women had or have the right to vote but not to run for office.[citation needed]

The term active suffrage is sometimes used for the right to vote, passive suffrage for the right to run for office, and full suffrage for the combination of both. (The equivalent terms are more common in other languages than in English.) The equivalent term when talking about both genders would then be universal full suffrage, or full universal suffrage.

In the United States, the term "suffrage" is often associated specifically with Women's Suffrage, as the term became widely known during the American Suffragettes movement, which began in the mid-nineteenth century and ultimately peaked during the first three decades of the twentieth century. This radical and explosive movement eventually culminated in the year 1920, when the United States ruled that women were to be given the same rights to vote and run for office as men by passing the Nineteenth Amendment.

In addition, although active suffrage has two necessary components, namely the right to vote and opportunities to vote, the term universal (active) suffrage is associated only with the right to vote and ignores the frequency that an incumbent government consults the electorate.

The First French Republic was the second nation that adopted universal male suffrage, doing so in 1792; it was one of the first national systems that abolished all property requirements as a prerequisite for allowing men to register and vote. Greece recognized full male suffrage in 1830 and France and Switzerland have continuously done so since the 1848 Revolution (for resident male citizens). Upon independence in the 19th century, several Latin American countries and Liberia in Africa initially extented suffrage to all adult males, but subsequently restricted it based on property requirements. The German Empire implemented full male suffrage in 1871.[citation needed] The United States adopted full male suffrage with the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870,[citation needed] but this was rescinded in the South after 1890 with the reinstitution of property and literacy requirements until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1893, the self-governing colony New Zealand became the first country in the world (except for the short-lived 18th century Corsican Republic) to grant active universal suffrage by giving women the right to vote. It did not grant universal full suffrage (the right to both vote and be a candidate, or both active and passive suffrage) until 1919.[2]

In 1902 Australia become the first country to grant full suffrage for women, i.e. the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote and to run for office.[3] However, universal suffrage was not implemented, as aboriginals didn't get the right to vote until 1962.

The first female MPs in the world were elected in Finland in 1907.

In 1906, the autonomous Grand Principality of Finland, which became the republic of Finland, was the first country in the world to implement full universal suffrage, as women could stand as candidates, unlike in New Zealand, and ethnic exclusion wasn't implemented, unlike in Australia. It also elected the world's first female members of parliament the following year.[4][5]

In most countries, universal suffrage (the right to vote but not necessarily the right to be a candidate) followed about a generation after universal male suffrage. Notable exceptions in Europe were France, where women could not vote until 1944, Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971 in federal elections and 1990 in all cantonal elections). It is worth noting that countries that took a long time to adopt women's suffrage had previously often been pioneers in granting universal male suffrage.

In the first modern democracies, governments restricted the vote to those with property and wealth, which almost always meant a minority of the male population. In some jurisdictions, other restrictions existed, such as requiring voters to practice a given religion. In all modern democracies, the number of people who could vote has increased progressively with time. In the 19th century in Europe, Great Britain and North America, there were movements advocating "universal [male] suffrage". The democratic movement of the late 19th century, unifying liberals and social democrats, particularly in northern Europe, used the slogan Equal and Common Suffrage.

The concept of universal suffrage requires the right to vote to be granted to all its residents. All countries, however, do not allow certain categories of citizens to vote. All countries currently have a minimum age, usually coinciding with the age of majority, and several countries impose felony disenfranchisement and disfranchisement based on resident status and citizenship. Saudi Arabia was the last major country that did not allow women to vote, but admitted women both to voting and candidacy in the 2015 municipal elections.

Expanding suffrage

Voting is an important part of the formal democratic process.
The European Parliament is the only supranational organ elected with universal suffrage (since 1979).

France, under the 1793 Jacobin constitution, was the first major country to enact suffrage for all adult males, though it was never formally enacted in practice (the subsequent election occurring after the fall of the Jacobin government). The Second French Republic did institute adult male suffrage after the revolution of 1848.

Following the French and American revolutions, the first movements in the Western world toward universal suffrage occurred in the early 19th century, and focused on removing property requirements for voting. In 1867, Germany (the North German Confederation) enacted suffrage for all adult males. In the United States following the American Civil War, slaves were freed and granted rights of citizens, including suffrage for adult males (although several states established restrictions largely, though not completely, diminishing these rights). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the focus of the universal suffrage movement came to include the extension of the right to vote to women, as happened from the post-Civil War era in several Western states and the 1890s in a number of British colonies.

Several European nations that had enacted universal suffrage had their normal legal process, or their status as an independent nation, interrupted during and after the First World War.

Many societies in the past have denied or abridged political representation on the basis of race or ethnicity, related to discriminatory ideas about citizenship. For example, in apartheid-era South Africa, non-white people could generally not vote in national elections until the first multi-party elections in 1994 (except under the Cape Qualified Franchise, which was replaced by a number of separate MPs in 1936 (Blacks) and 1958 (Coloureds), later by the Tricameral Parliament). Rhodesia enacted a similar statute in its proclaimed independence, which however allowed a smaller number of representatives for the considerably larger Black majority (under its 1961 constitution, the voting classes had been based on socio-economic standards, which marginalized most Black and a few White voters to a separate set of constituencies, under the principle of weighted voting; this replaced in 1969 by an openly racial franchise, with delegated all Blacks to the 'B' voters roll).

Although in the United States African Americans were granted the rights of citizens, including suffrage, by constitutional amendments following the American Civil War, later in the century white Democrats had regained control in all states of the former Confederacy in the American South. From 1890 to 1910 they passed new constitutions, laws or constitutional amendments establishing barriers to voter registration and, later, voting, that essentially disfranchised most African Americans. Though these were, in order not to abridge the Fifteenth Amendment, based on economic and educational standards (i.e. upkeep of poll taxes and submission to literacy tests), and thus excluded a number of poor White voters as well, they were overtly racist in their intent - with grandfather clauses largely excepting those whose forefathers had held the vote under the previously racial franchise and white primaries in states where only the Democratic party could exercise any political weight - and practical consequences. This mounted legal challenges, but African Americans did not fully regain the ability to exercise their rights until after passage in the mid-1960s of the Twenty-fourth amendment, which secured the right to vote in relation to poll taxes, and the Voting Rights Act, which provided federal protection and enforcement of elections. This was a result of their activism in the Civil Rights Movement and a series of legal challenges, most notably Smith v. Allright (which banned white primaries).


All US states, with the exceptions of Maine and Vermont, disfranchise some felons from voting depending on their current incarceration, parole or probation status; a number of US states permanently disfranchise some felons, even after their release from prison.[6] Many states within the U.S. previously disfranchised paupers, persons who either paid no direct taxes, or received public assistance.[7]

Nations have differing degrees of legal recognition of non-resident citizens: non-resident Danes cannot vote after two years;[8] non-resident Italians may vote for representatives at-large in the Italian parliament; British citizens cannot vote for their national parliament unless they have lived in the UK within the last fifteen years.[9] A few nations also restrict those who are part of the military or police forces, e.g. Kuwait.[10]

Many democratic countries, for example the United Kingdom and France, have had colonies with citizens living outside of the mother country and have generally not been entitled to vote for the national legislature. A peculiarly complex case is that of Algeria under the Third French Republic: Algeria was legally an integral part of France, but citizenship was restricted (as in other French colonies proper) by legal status, not by race or ethnicity. Any Muslim Algerian could become a French citizen by choosing to live like one. As this required the person to resign jurisdiction under Islamic law in favour of French civic law, very few did. Among Muslims, such a change was considered apostasy from Islam, which was the dominant religion in Algeria. Colonists in America declared Independence from Great Britain citing "no taxation without representation" as one of their main grievances. However, the newly established country did not extend voting rights in the United States beyond white adult male property owners (about 6% of the population),[11] and did not grant its overseas citizens the right to vote in elections either, until the passage of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 1986.

Citizens of an EU Member State are allowed to vote in EU parliamentary elections, as well as some local elections. For example, a British person living in Graz, Austria, would be entitled to vote for the European Parliament as a resident of the "electoral district" of Austria, and to vote in Graz municipal elections. He would, however, not be entitled to vote in Austrian (federal) elections, or Styrian (state) elections. Similarly, all locally resident EU citizens in the UK are allowed to vote for representatives of the local council, and those resident in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may vote for the devolved parliaments or assemblies. But, only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens are allowed to vote for the British House of Commons.[12] However, not all British citizens are allowed to vote, since non-resident British citizens lose their franchise after 15 years. In fact the British government is planning to reinstate universal suffrage soon,[13] but only after more than a million expats, including the most pro-European, were excluded from the 2016 Brexit referendum.

In the West Bank, Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and therefore cannot vote in Israeli elections. Different areas of the West Bank are under varying levels of Israeli control. Settlers (and their offspring) to Area C retain their citizenship, and can continue to vote.

Dates by country

States have granted and revoked universal suffrage at various times. This list can be organised in three ways:

  • Universal There are no distinctions between voters over a certain age in any part of its territories due to gender, literacy, wealth, social status, language, religion, race, or ethnicity.
  • Male is for all males over a certain age irrespective of literacy, wealth, or social status.
  • Female is for all genders over a certain age irrespective of literacy, wealth, or social status.
  • Ethnicity is for all eligible voters over a certain age irrespective of language, religion, race, or ethnicity.

Note: The table can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically using the Sort both.gif icons.

Universal suffrage by country or territory
Universal Male Female Ethnicity Country or territory Notes
 ? 1964 1965[14]  ? Afghanistan Constitution transformed Afghanistan into a modern democracy.[15]
1947 1912 1947 1912 Argentina Universal, secret and mandatory suffrage for male citizens over 18 years of age was granted by Sáenz Peña Law. The General Election Law of 1912 was amended to include female citizens in 1947.
1921 1919 1921 1920 Armenia Became part of the Soviet Union in 1920.
1962 1858 1894 1962 Australia In 1855, the parliament of the self-governing Colony of South Australia enacted legislation providing for universal male suffrage. The parliaments of the Colony of Victoria and the Colony of New South Wales followed suit by enacting legislation providing universal male suffrage in 1857 and 1858, respectively. In 1894 the parliament of the Colony of South Australia enacted legislation providing a full and universal adult franchise; the right of all adults of the age of majority to vote in elections, and for any elector to stand for high office. In 1901, the self-governing colonies of Australia joined together in a federal structure of states. In 1902, the new federal parliament legislated for a universal adult franchise and the right of electors to stand for and occupy any office for which they could directly vote. Indigenous people were explicitly excluded. True universal suffrage was not achieved until 1962 when the Commonwealth Electoral Act extended the right to vote to all Australians regardless of race.
1945 1896/1907 1918 1945 Austria Universal suffrage 1896, universal and equal suffrage (removing multiple voting) 1907. Before 1907 unmarried landholding women were allowed to vote. After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I universal suffrage including women.
1919 1919 1919 1919 Azerbaijan Became part of the Soviet Union in 1920.
 ? 1973 1973[14]  ? Bahrain Universal male suffrage in 1973, although parliament was suspended and dissolved in 1975 for approximately 30 years. Non Sunni-Muslims cannot vote.
1948 1893 1948 1948 Belgium Universal census suffrage for all men aged 25 and above since 1893. Depending on education and amount of taxes paid, males could cast between 1 and 3 votes. Widows were also allowed to vote but lost their voting rights after remarrying. Universal single suffrage for males since 1918. Universal suffrage for women was finally introduced in 1948.
 ? 2008 2008  ? Bhutan
 ? 1956 1956  ? Bolivia Universal suffrage granted by decree; first elections in 1956; women's suffrage coincided with abolition of literacy requirements.
1988 1988 1932 Brazil Replaced the previous system of male suffrage, from 1891, which excluded homeless, women, priests, the military. Illiterates were still banned until 1988.
 ? 1945 1945  ? Bulgaria Universal suffrage including women and men serving in the Army was instituted by the government of the Fatherland front.
 ? 1990 1990  ? Burma/Myanmar Last free elections held in 1990.[16] New elections held in 2015, which elected 75% of legislators, while 25% remain appointed by the military.
1960 1920 1920 1960 Canada In 1920, Canada enacted suffrage for federal elections for male and female citizens, with exceptions for Chinese Canadians and Aboriginal Canadians;[17] for provincial elections, female suffrage was established between 1916 (Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan) and 1940 (Quebec). Chinese Canadians, regardless of gender, were given suffrage in 1947, while Aboriginal Canadians were not allowed to vote until 1960, regardless of gender. Newfoundland which joined Canada in 1949 had universal male suffrage in 1925.
 ? 1970 1970  ? Chile From 1888 suffrage for men of any race over 21 who can read. From 1925 full suffrage for men aged 21 and above and able to read and write. 1934 women get to vote on Municipal Elections. From 1949 universal suffrage for men and women aged 21 and above and able to read and write. From 1970 suffrage for men and women aged 18 and older whether or not they can read.
 ? 1853–1886
1954 1853 Colombia Universal male suffrage starting in 1853, restricted in 1886. Electorate defined on the basis of adult franchise and joint electorate.
 ? 1896/1907 1918  ? First Czechoslovak Republic Within Austria, universal suffrage 1896, universal and equal suffrage (removing multiple voting) 1907. After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I, universal suffrage including women.
1915 1849 1915 1915 Denmark The king granted limited voting rights in 1834 but only to property owners and with limited power. First proper voting rights came in 1849 to "men over 30 of good reputation" but in the subsequent years the rules were changed a number of times, and it was not until the change of the constitution in 1915 that all men and women living within the kingdom had influence on all chambers.[18] Danish law does not operate with any notion of "ethnicity," however, universal suffrage cannot have been said to be obtained because non-residents are still excluded from voting after two years abroad.[8]
 ? 1917 1918  ? Estonia Two tiered elections were held, with 62 representatives from rural communities and towns elected in May–June and July–August, respectively.
 ? 1979 1979  ? European Union
1945 1848 1944 1916 France In 1792, the Convention assembly was elected by all males 25 and over. Over the subsequent years, France experienced profound political upheaval, with republican, monarchist and bonapartist government governing at various times. Through these changes, suffrage increased and decreased based on the introduction, repeal and reintroduction of various degrees of universal, property and census-based suffrage. Universal male suffrage was given in 1848, with the exception of the military who obtained the right to vote in 1945. This was supplemented in 1944 by full universal suffrage, including women as voters.[citation needed]
1906 1906 1906  ? Finland As an autonomous Grand Principality in the Russian Empire, Finland achieved women's suffrage in 1906, becoming the second country in the world to adopt universal suffrage.[19] The Finnish parliamentary election of 1907 was the first time when women were elected (19 of 200 MPs). After becoming independent in 1917, Finland continued its universal suffrage.
1919 1867/1871 1919 1919 Germany The German Empire from 1871 until 1918 (and the North German Confederation before it from 1867) had universal male suffrage, one of the more progressive election franchises at the time.[20] After the German Revolution of 1918–19, the Weimar Constitution established universal suffrage in 1919 with a minimum voting age of 20.
 ? 1919  ?  ? Georgia Became part of the Soviet Union in 1921.
 ? 1951 1951  ? Ghana Universal suffrage granted for the 1951 legislative election.
1952 1864 1952  ? Greece After the deposition of King Otto of Greece in 1862, the Greek Constitution of 1864 introduced universal male suffrage with secret ballot. Women were given the right to vote in local elections in 1930 and in parliamentary elections since 1952.
 ? 1991 1991 1991 Hong Kong Held its first legislative elections in 1991, elected part of the legislators. Until now Hong Kong still only can elect half of the legislators. All registered voters can eligible to vote.
1918 1918 1918  ? Hungary After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I.
1950 1950 1950 1950 India All adult citizens as recognized by the Constitution of India, irrespective of race or gender or religion on the founding of the Republic of India.
1955 1955 1955 1955 Indonesia
1963 1906 1963 1963 Iran Under "Constitutional Revolution". The White Revolution gave women the right to vote in 1963.[21]
1923 1918 1923 1829 Ireland When Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, the removal of a voting ban based on religion occurred in 1793 and 1829. Then known as the Irish Free State, the country changed previous British law to enfranchise women equally with men in 1923.[22]
1948 1948 1948 1948 Israel Universal suffrage since the founding of the State of Israel.
1945 1912 1945 1912 Italy 1912 Introduction of the first universal male suffrage, extended to all citizens aged 30 and older, with no restrictions. It was applied in the elections of 1913. In 1918 the electorate was expanded with all male citizens aged 21 and older or who had provided the service in the army. Universal adult suffrage, including women, introduced in 1945. It was applied, for the first time, in the referendum of 1946. The voters had to choose between Italian monarchy or republic. The voters chose republic. Suffrage for men and women aged 18 granted in 1975.
 ? 1944 1944  ? Jamaica Universal adult suffrage introduced.
1947 1925 1947  ? Japan Universal adult male suffrage for those over 25 was introduced in 1925. Universal adult suffrage for both sexes over 20 introduced in 1946, ratified by the new Constitution which adopted on May 3, 1947.
 ? 1962 2005  ? Kuwait Universal adult male suffrage since 1962, for citizens who are 21 or older, with the exception of those who, at the time of elections, serve in the armed forces. As of 2005, women who satisfy the age and citizenship requirements are allowed to vote.
 ? 1919 1919  ? Latvia Universal suffrage introduced in Law of elections to the Constituent assembly.
1943 1943 1943 1943 Lebanon Universal suffrage for all adult males and females since the independence of Lebanon (The Chamber of Deputies is shared equally between Christians and Muslims, rather than elected by universal suffrage that would have provided a Muslim majority).
 ? 1984 1984  ? Liechtenstein
 ? 1922 1922  ? Lithuania
1948 1919  ?  ? Luxembourg
 ? 1956 1957  ? Malaysia
1947 1947 1947 1947 Malta The 1947 election was the first election without property qualifications for voters, and women were also allowed to vote for the first time.
 ? 1917 1947/1953  ? Mexico Universal suffrage given to men after the Mexican Revolution; suffrage given to women in municipal elections in 1947 and national elections in 1953.[23] In 1996, Mexicans living in the United States were also given voting rights.[24]
1919 1917 1919 1917 Netherlands From 1917 full suffrage for men aged 23 and above. From 1919 universal suffrage for men and women aged 23. From 1971 suffrage for men and women aged 18 and older.
1893 1889 1893 1879 New Zealand With the extension of voting rights to women in 1893, the self-governing British colony became one of the first permanently constituted jurisdictions in the world to grant universal adult suffrage,[2] suffrage previously having been universal for Māori men over 21 from 1867, and for European males from 1879.[25] Plural voting (impacting men) was abolished in 1889.
1913 1898 1913 1821 Norway Full male suffrage in 1898, with women included in 1913. Sami men were granted suffrage in a revision of the constitution in 1821.[26]
 ? 1956  ?  ? Pakistan
 ? 1979 1955 or 1979  ? Peru Suffrage was granted for women in 1955 but suffrage for the illiterate was only granted with the 1979 Constitution.
 ? 1935 1937 1946 Philippines Males who were over 25 years old and could speak English or Spanish, with property and tax restrictions, were previously allowed to vote as early as 1907; universal male suffrage became a constitutional right in 1935. Women's suffrage was approved in an plebiscite in 1937.[27]
1918 1918 1918 1918 Poland Universal suffrage for men and women over 21. Prior to the Partition of Poland in 1795, only nobility (men) were allowed to take part in political life. The first parliamentary elections were held on 26 January 1919 (Polish legislative election, 1919), according to the decree introducing universal suffrage, signed by Jozef Pilsudski on 28 November 1918, immediately after restoring independent Polish state.
1974 1878 1931 1974 Portugal By 1878, 72% of the male adult population had access to vote; this number was restricted by the policies of the last years of the monarchy and first years of the republic (transition in 1910 with the 5 October 1910 revolution), being reinstalled only in the 1920s. Restricted female suffrage was firstly allowed in 1931; it was further extended in 1933, 1946, and finally 1968. Due to the 1933–74 dictatorship of Estado Novo, universal suffrage was only fully attained after the 1974 Carnation revolution.
 ? 2013  ?  ? Qatar Municipal elections since 1999.
1917 1917 1917 1917 Russia Universal suffrage established by Declaration of the Provisional Government of 15 March 1917 and Statue on Elections of the Constituent Assembly of 2 August 1917.[28]
 ? 1990 1991  ? Samoa
 ?  ? -  ? Saudi Arabia
1994 1910 1931 1994 South Africa White women's suffrage granted in 1930 and suffrage for all white adults regardless of property in 1931. Universal suffrage not regarding race or colour of skin; Blacks and Coloureds were denied the right to vote before and during the apartheid era (1948–1994).
 ? 1948 1948  ? South Korea Universal suffrage since the founding of the Republic of Korea.
1933–1939, 1977 1869 1933–1939, 1977 1977 Spain Suffrage for men practiced from 1869 to 1923 and in the Second Spanish Republic (1931–36). On November 19, 1933 women were granted the right to vote. Revoked during Franco era (1939–75) and recovered since 1977 in the new Spanish Constitution.
1931 1931 1931 1931 Sri Lanka Universal suffrage for all irrespective of race, ethnicity, language, or gender. Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia.
1919 1909 1919 1951 Sweden During the years 1718–72 burgher men and women of age and with income were able to elect members of parliament, but women's suffrage was abolished in 1772. Jews were given the right to vote in 1838, but not given the right to stand for election until 1870. Catholics were given the right to vote in 1873, but not given the right to be eligible as cabinet minister until 1951. Full[Incorrect - discuss] male suffrage 1909 for those aged 25 and above, but only to one of two equally weighed houses of parliament. Universal suffrage for men and women aged 23 enacted in 1919,[29] and the first election took place in 1921. Until 1924 men who refused to do military service were excepted from universal suffrage. Until 1937 courts were able to punish crimes by revoking a convict's right to vote. Until 1945 persons living on benefits were excepted from universal suffrage. Voting age changed to 21 in 1945, to 20 in 1965, to 19 in 1969 and to 18 in 1975.
1990 1848 1971 or 1990  ? Switzerland At the formation of the federal state and with the Constitution of 1848, Switzerland became the first modern state to introduce universal male suffrage; this has continued unbroken since its adoption. Women's suffrage was introduced, by (male) referendum, for federal elections in 1971, but for cantonal elections, the last canton to introduce women's suffrage (Appenzell Innerrhoden) had to do so by supreme court order in 1990.
1996 1947 1947 1996 Taiwan Universal suffrage under the Constitution of the Republic of China. First National Assembly elections held in 1991, first legislative elections held in 1992. First presidential direct elections held in 1996.
1933 1933 1933 1933 Thailand Universal suffrage for all since the first general election in 1933.
1959  ?  ?  ? Tunisia Universal suffrage for all since the first post-independence constitution.
1934 1878 1934 1923 Turkey
1928 1918 1928 1829 United Kingdom In the United Kingdom the removal of voting rights based on religion occurred in 1791 and 1829. The right to vote has never since been based on race or religion.[nb 1] Universal suffrage was granted to all men by the Representation of the People Act 1918.[31] This Act granted some women the right to vote for the first time in national elections,[nb 2] but about 60% of women (those under 30 or not meeting property qualifications) were excluded until the Equal Franchise Act 1928, when women were granted the vote on the same terms as men.[36] The Representation of the People Act 1948 removed multiple voting (i.e. established one person, one vote) and extended suffrage to local elections apart from Northern Ireland where the situation was brought in line in 1968. The Representation of the People Act 1969 reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.
1948 1948 1948 1948 United Nations Provision of "universal and equal suffrage" in Universal Declaration of Human Rights [Article 21(3)]
2015  ?  ?  ? Dominican Republic Jorge Radhamés Zorrilla Ozuna proposed the inclusion of the military vote in the constitutional reform of Dominican Republic, to be effective in the elections of 2016.[37]
1965[nb 3] 1856[38][nb 4] 1920[nb 5] African Americans 1870 – 1890 Native Americans in 1924[nb 6] African Americans and others in 1965[nb 3] United States In the colonial era, there had been various restrictions on suffrage in what is today the United States. Property restrictions on voting disenfranchised more than half of the white male population in most states.[39]

After the American Revolution, the Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. In the early history of the U.S., most states allowed only white male adult property owners to vote (about 6% of the population).[40][41] Over subsequent decades, voting rights expanded to include more of the population. Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky were the three states to have full adult suffrage for white males before 1800. New Jersey allowed women's suffrage for landowners until the early 1800s.

In the 1820 election, there were 108,359 ballots cast. In the 1840 election, 2,412,694 ballots were cast, an increase that far outstripped natural population growth. By 1856, after the period of Jacksonian democracy, all states had almost universal white adult male suffrage regardless of property ownership, although tax-paying requirements remained in five states.[38][42] Poor voters became a huge part of the electorate. There were few nations in the world that had a similar level of suffrage for white males at this time.

In 1868, the 14th Amendment altered the way each state is represented in the House of Representatives. It counted all residents for apportionment including slaves, overriding the three-fifths compromise, and reduced a state's apportionment if it wrongfully denied men aged 21 and above the right to vote. However, this was not enforced in practice. In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted suffrage to all males of any race, skin color, and ethnicity, including former slaves (freedmen), meaning that male African Americans in theory had the right to vote throughout the United States.[43]

At the turn of the 20th century, former Confederate states passed Jim Crow laws and amendments to effectively disfranchise black voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and other restrictions, applied in a discriminatory manner. During this period, the Supreme Court generally upheld state efforts to discriminate against racial minorities; only later in the 20th century were these laws ruled unconstitutional. Black males in the Northern states could vote, but the majority of African Americans lived in the South.

Wyoming was the first territory to enfranchise all women in 1869. From then until 1916, all Western states legalized women suffrage, but few Eastern states followed suit. However, in 1920 the 19th Amendment extended the franchise to women in all states.[44] In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act gave suffrage to all Native Americans, nearly two-thirds of whom already had citizenship and the right to vote.[45]

In 1964, the 24th Amendment, which abolished the use of poll taxes as a requirement for voting in federal elections, was passed.[46][47] Full enfranchisement was revived in 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal enforcement of rights.

In 1971, the 26th Amendment ratified, which granted suffrage for men and women aged 18.

1918  ?  ?  ? Uruguay With the 1918 Uruguayan Constitution.
1987  ? 1978 1987 Zimbabwe Universal suffrage was introduced in the 1978 Internal Settlement between Ian Smith and Abel Muzorewa. The 1979 Lancaster House constitution agreed to accommodate the nationalists and also affirmed universal suffrage but with a special role for whites. Universal suffrage with no special consideration for race came in 1987. Before 1978, Rhodesia (the name for the region that would become Zimbabwe in 1980) had a merit qualification in order to vote. This was controversial because it excluded the vast majority of native Africans.

Women's suffrage

In Sweden-Finland, women's suffrage was granted during the Age of Liberty from 1718 until 1772.[48]

In Corsica, women's suffrage was granted in 1755 and lasted until 1769.[49]

Women's suffrage (with the same property qualifications as for men) was granted in New Jersey in 1776 (the word "inhabitants" was used instead of "men" in the 1776 Constitution) and rescinded in 1807.

The Pitcairn Islands granted restricted women's suffrage in 1838. Various other countries and states granted restricted women's suffrage in the later half of the nineteenth century, starting with South Australia in 1861.

The first unrestricted women's suffrage in a major country was granted in New Zealand in 1893.[2] The women's suffrage bill was adopted mere weeks before the general election of 1893. Māori men had been granted suffrage in 1867, white men in 1879. The Freedom in the World index lists New Zealand as the only free country in the world in 1893.[49]

South Australia first granted women suffrage and allowed them to stand for parliament in 1894.

The autonomous Grand Principality of Finland , a decade before becoming the republic of Finland, was the first country in the world to implement full universal suffrage, by giving women full political rights, i.e. both the right to vote and to run for office, and was the second in the world and the first in Europe to give women the right to vote.[50][51] The world's first female members of parliament were elected in Finland the following year.

In 1931, the Second Spanish Republic allowed women the right of passive suffrage with three women being elected.

During a discussion on extending women's right to active suffrage, the Radical Socialist Victoria Kent confronted the Radical Clara Campoamor. Kent argued that Spanish women were not yet prepared to vote and, since they were too influenced by the Catholic Church, they would vote for right-wing candidates. Campoamor however pleaded for women's rights regardless of political orientation. Her point finally prevailed and, in the election of 1933, the political right won with the vote of citizens of any sex over 23. Both Campoamor and Kent lost their seats.

Youth suffrage, children's suffrage and suffrage in school

Democratic schools practice and support universal suffrage in school, which allows a vote to every member of the school, including students and staff. Such schools hold that this feature is essential for students to be ready to move into society at large.[52][53]

See also


  1. While local government gerrymandering in Northern Ireland directly led to the Troubles,[30] parliamentary elections still took place for all British citizens. In 1972 the British Parliament was unwilling to grant the mostly Protestant unionist Northern Ireland government more authoritarian special powers since it was now convinced of its inability to restore order. So they suspended the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the post of Governor and made provision for a devolved administration.
  2. Until the Reform Act 1832 specified 'male persons', a few women had been able to vote in parliamentary elections through property ownership, although this was rare.[32] In local government elections, single women ratepayers received the right to vote in the Municipal Franchise Act 1869. This right was confirmed in the Local Government Act 1894 and extended to include some married women.[33][34][35]
  3. 3.0 3.1 While constitutionally given the right to vote by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, the reality of the country was such that most African Americans could not vote until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Starting in 1888 Southern states legalized disenfranchisement by enacting Jim Crow laws; they amended their constitutions and passed legislation to impose various voting restrictions, including literacy tests, poll taxes, property-ownership requirements, moral character tests, requirements that applicants interpret a particular document, and grandfather clauses that allowed otherwise-ineligible persons to vote if their grandfathers voted (which excluded many African Americans whose grandfathers had been ineligible). During this period, the Supreme Court generally upheld state efforts to discriminate against racial minorities. In Giles v. Harris (1903), the Court held that irrespective of the Fifteenth Amendment, the judiciary did not have the remedial power to force states to register racial minorities to vote.
  4. The 1828 presidential election was the first in which non-property-holding white males could vote in the vast majority of states, but this was not consistent across the country until the last state, North Carolina, abolished property qualification in 1856. In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment altered the way each state is represented in the House of Representatives. It counted all residents for apportionment including slaves, overriding the three-fifths compromise, and reduced a state's apportionment if it wrongfully denied males over the age of 21 the right to vote; however, this was not enforced in practice. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited denying a citizen the right to vote based on "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". David Quigley, Acts of Enforcement: The New York City Election of 1870, in: New York History (2002).
  5. 19th Amendment.
  6. In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act gave Native Americans the right to vote and officially recognized them as citizens, nearly two-thirds of whom already had citizenship and the right to vote.


  1. Collins Dictionary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nohlen, Dieter (2001). Elections in Asia and the Pacific: South East Asia, East Asia, and the South Pacific. Oxford University Press. p. 14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Brief history of the Finnish Parliament
  5. Centenary of women's full political rights in Finland
  6. – State Felon Voting Laws
  7. Steinfeld, Robert J. (1989). "Property and Suffrage in the Early American Republic". Stanford Law Review. 41 (2): 335–376, p. 335 et passim. doi:10.2307/1228746.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Udlandsdanskeres Valgret (økonomi- og indenrigsministeriet)
  9. Electoral Franchise: Who can vote UK Parliament
  10. CIA – The World Factbook – Kuwait
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  22. Section 1 of the Electoral Act 1923 Act of the Irish Parliament.
  23. Mexican women were granted the right to run for office and to vote in national elections in 1953. | Thinkfinity
  24. Mexico: Voting Rights and Emigration - Migration News | Migration Dialogue
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  29. Sveriges Riksdag: Kampen för rösträtt
  30. Walker, Graham. A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism and Pessimism (Manchester Studies in Modern History). p. 162. ISBN 978-0-7190-6109-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  32. Heater, Derek (2006). "Emergence of Radicalism". Citizenship in Britain: A History. Edinburgh University Press. p. 107. ISBN 9780748626724.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  36. Peter N. Stearns (2008). "The Oxford encyclopedia of the modern world, Volume 7". p. 160. Oxford University Press, 2008
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  41. Janda, Kenneth; Berry, Jeffrey M.; Goldman, Jerry (2008). The challenge of democracy : government in America (9. ed., update ed.). Houghton Mifflin. p. 207. ISBN 9780618990948<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>; Murrin, John M.; Johnson, Paul E.; McPherson, James M.; Fahs, Alice; Gerstle, Gary (2012). Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (6th ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. p. 296. ISBN 9780495904991.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  43. David Quigley, Acts of Enforcement: The New York City Election of 1870, in: New York History (2002).
  44. Ashlyn K. Kuersten (2003). Women and the Law: Leaders, Cases, and Documents. p. 13. ABC-CLIO, 2003
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  46. Transcript of Voting Rights Act (1965) U.S. National Archives.
  47. The Constitution: The 24th Amendment Time.
  48. Karlsson Sjögren, Åsa, Männen, kvinnorna och rösträtten: medborgarskap och representation 1723-1866 [Men, women and suffrage: citizenship and representation 1723-1866], Carlsson, Stockholm, 2006 (in Swedish)
  49. 49.0 49.1 A. Kulinski, K. Pawlowski. "The Atlantic Community - The Titanic of the XXI Century". p. 96. WSB-NLU. 2010
  50. Brief history of the Finnish Parliament
  51. Centenary of women's full political rights in Finland
  52. Greenberg, D. (1987) The Sudbury Valley School Experience, "Subtleties of a Democratic School." Retrieved February 21, 2010.
  53. Greenberg, D. (1987) The Sudbury Valley School Experience "Back to Basics – Political basics.". Retrieved February 21, 2010.

External links