Universal suffrage (also called universal franchise, general suffrage, and common suffrage of the common man) gives the right to vote
to all adult citizens
, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status, race
, ethnicity, political stance, or any other restriction, subject only to relatively minor exceptions.
In its original 19th-century usage by reformers
, ''universal suffrage'' was understood to mean only universal manhood suffrage
; the vote was extended to women later, during the women's suffrage
There are variations among countries in terms of specifics of the right to vote; the minimum age is usually between 18 and 25 years (see age of majority
) and "the insane, certain classes of convicted criminals, and those punished for certain electoral offenses" sometimes lack the right to vote.
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.
The 19th century saw many movements advocating "universal ale
suffrage", most notably in Europe, Great Britain and North America.
In the United States
, after the principle of "one man, one vote
" was established in the early 1960s by U.S. Supreme Court
under Earl Warren
, the U.S. Congress
together with the Warren Court
continued to protect and expand the voting rights of all Americans
, especially African Americans
, through the Civil Rights Act of 1964
, Voting Rights Act of 1965
and several Supreme Court rulings.
In addition, the term "suffrage" is also associated specifically with women's suffrage in the United States
; a movement to extend the franchise to women began in the mid-nineteenth century and culminated in 1920, when the United States ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
, guaranteeing the right of women to vote.
France, under the 1793 Jacobin constitution
, was the first major country to enact suffrage for all adult males, though it was never formally used in practice (the constitution was immediately suspended before being implemented, and the subsequent election
occurred in 1795 after the fall of the Jacobin government
in 1794 discredited most ideas associated with them, including that constitution). Elsewhere in the Francophone
world, the Republic of Haiti
legislated for universal male suffrage in 1816. The Second French Republic
instituted adult male suffrage after the revolution of 1848
Following the French revolutions, 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 during the 1890s in a number of British colonies.
On 19 September 1893 the British Governor of New Zealand, Lord Glasgow
, gave assent to a new electoral act, which meant that New Zealand
became the first British-controlled colony in which women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This was followed shortly after by the colony of South Australia
in 1894, which was the second to allow women to vote, but the first colony to permit women to stand for election as well. Twelve years later, the autonomous Russian territory known as Grand Duchy of Finland
(which became the Republic of Finland in 1917) became the first territory in the world to implement unrestricted universal suffrage, as women could stand as candidates, unlike in New Zealand, and without indigenous ethnic exclusion, like in Australia. It also lead to the election of the world's first female members of parliament the following year
Federal states and colonial or autonomous territories prior to World War I
have multiple examples of early introduction of universal suffrage. However, these legal changes were effected with the permission of the British, Russian or other government bodies, which were considered the sovereign nation at the time. For this reason, Australia (1901), New Zealand (1908) and Finland (1917) all have different dates of achieving independent nationhood.
The First French Republic
adopted universal male suffrage briefly 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 1844. Spain recognized it in the Constitution of 1869
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 extended suffrage to all adult males, but subsequently restricted it based on property requirements. The German Empire
implemented full male suffrage in 1871.
In the United States, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
, ratified in 1870 during the Reconstruction era
, provided that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." This amendment aimed to guarantee the right to vote to African Americans
, many of whom had been enslaved
in the South
prior to the end (1865) of the American Civil War
and the 1864-1865 abolition of slavery
. Despite the amendment, however, blacks were disfranchised
in the former Confederate states after 1877
; Southern officials ignored the amendment and blocked black citizens from voting through a variety of devices, including poll taxes
, literacy tests
, and grandfather clause
[Chandler Davidson, "The Recent Evolution of Voting Rights Law Affecting Racial and Language Minorities" in ''Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act, 1965-1990'' (Princeton University Press, 1994: eds. Chandler Davidson & Bernard Grofman), pp. 21-22.]
violence and terrorism
were used to intimidate some would-be voters. Southern blacks did not effectively receive the right to vote 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.
In 1902 the Commonwealth of Australia
become the first country to grant full suffrage for women, i.e. the rights both to vote and to run for office.
However, Australia did not implement universal suffrage at this time - Aboriginal Australians
did not get the right to vote until 1962.
Several European nations that had enacted universal suffrage had their normal legal process, or their status as independent nations, 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
of 1965, 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 was replaced in 1969 by an openly racial franchise, with delegated all Blacks to the 'B' voters roll).
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, religion, race, or ethnicity.
* Male is for all males over a certain age in the majority ethnic or sectarian group irrespective of literacy, wealth, or social status.
* Female is for when all women over a certain age can vote on the same terms as men
* Ethnicity is for when all eligible voters over a certain age can vote on the same terms as the majority group irrespective of religion, race, or ethnicity.
Since historically one group or another might have lost suffrage rights only to regain them later on. This table lists the last uninterrupted time from the present a group was granted the right to vote; if that group's suffrage has been fully restored.
, women's suffrage was granted during the Age of Liberty
from 1718 until 1772.
, women's suffrage was granted in 1755 and lasted until 1769.
[A. Kulinski, K. Pawlowski. "The Atlantic Community - The Titanic of the XXI Century". p. 96. WSB-NLU. 2010]
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
The first unrestricted women's suffrage in a major country was granted in New Zealand
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.
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.
The world's first female members of parliament were elected
in Finland the following year, 1907.
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
The movement to lower the voting age is one aspect of the Youth rights movement
. Organizations such as the National Youth Rights Association
are active in the United States to advocate for a lower voting age, with some success, among other issues related to youth rights.
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.
[Greenberg, D. (1987) The Sudbury Valley School Experienc]
"Back to Basics – Political basics."
. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
* Democracy Index
* Equality before the law
* List of suffragists and suffragettes
* List of women's rights activists
* One man, one vote
* Timeline of women's suffrage
* Umbrella Movement
** 2014 Hong Kong protests
* Voting age
* Youth suffrage
Limited suffrage in England prior to the 1832 reformsFinnish centennial celebration
* "Have you heard the news?
", a pamphlet published by an anonymous English freeman in 1835
* ''An address to the middle and working classes engaged in trade and manufactures throughout the empire on the necessity of union at the present crisis
'' (1842) by Richard Gardner