The concept of universal suffrage, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, race, or ethnicity, subject only to minor exceptions. In its original 19th-century usage by political reformers, universal suffrage was understood to mean only universal manhood suffrage; the vote was extended to women later, during the women's suffrage movement.
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 United States, the term "suffrage" is often associated specifically with women's suffrage; 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.
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 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".
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 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.
On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In 1906, the autonomous Grand Duchy 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 was not implemented, unlike in Australia. It also elected the world's first female members of parliament the following year.
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. 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 was intended to guarantee the right to vote to African Americans, many of whom had been enslaved in the South prior to the end of the American Civil War and the 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 clauses; violence and terrorism were used to intimidate those who attempted to vote. 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, 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. However, universal suffrage was not implemented, as aborigines did not get the right to vote until 1962, because in the early 20th century the Australian aborigines were not considered human according to Australian law.
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).
|Part of the Politics series on|
Some nations, notably most of the United States and the United Kingdom, disenfranchise based on criminal convictions. 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. Many states within the U.S. previously disfranchised paupers, persons who either paid no direct taxes, or received public assistance.
Nations have differing degrees of legal recognition of non-resident citizens: non-resident Danes cannot vote after two years; non-resident Italians may vote for representatives at-large in the Italian parliament; non-resident British citizens cannot vote for their national parliament unless they have lived in the UK within the last fifteen years. A few nations also restrict those who are part of the military or police forces, e.g. Kuwait.
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), 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. 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.
States have granted and revoked universal suffrage at various times. This list can be organised in three ways:
|Universal||Male||Female||Ethnicity||Country or territory||Notes|
|1977||1977||1977||1977||Afghanistan||1964 Constitution of Afghanistan transformed Afghanistan into a modern democracy.|
|1952||1853||1952||1853||Argentina||Universal male suffrage was instituted in 1853. Universal, secret and mandatory suffrage for male citizens over 18 years of age was granted by the Sáenz Peña Law (General Election Law) of 1912. It was amended to include female citizens in 1947 but became effective in 1952.|
|1921||1919||1921||1920||Armenia||Became part of the Soviet Union in 1920.|
|1967||1901||1902||1967||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 female adult franchise; the right of all white 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 white 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 1967 when the Commonwealth Electoral Act extended the right to vote to all Australians regardless of race. However, Australia was first united as a federation in 1901[circular reference]. Hence, white female voting rights were not enabled until the nation was united. Voting rights for all white men and women were established in 1902.|
|1918||1896||1918||1907||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.|
|1961||1958||1961||1807||Bahamas||Legislation passed in the house in 1961 allowing for Universal adult suffrage in The Bahamas. All men could vote equally in The Bahamas in 1958. In 1807 legislation passed in the house of assembly giving free persons of color the right to vote.|
|1975||1975||1975||1975||Bahrain||Universal suffrage in 1973, although parliament was suspended and dissolved in 1975 for approximately 30 years. Non Sunni-Muslims cannot vote.|
|1948||1893||1948||1893||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.|
|1956||1956||1956||1956||Bolivia||Universal suffrage granted by decree; first elections in 1956; women's suffrage coincided with abolition of literacy requirements.|
|1988||1988||1988||1988||Brazil||Male suffrage from Brazilian Constituition of 1891 excluding the homeless, women, non-white people, illiterates, poor people, former slaves and their descendants, foreign white male adult people, priests, and the military. Women from 1932. Illiterates were still banned from 1881 until 1988.|
|1945||1945||1945||1945||Bulgaria||Universal suffrage including women and men serving in the Army was instituted by the government of the Fatherland front.|
|1990||1990||1990||1990||Burma/Myanmar||Last free elections held in 1990. 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; 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||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.|
|1954||1936||1954||1936||Colombia||Universal male suffrage starting in 1853, restricted in 1886. Electorate defined on the basis of adult franchise and joint electorate.|
|1918||1896||1918||1896||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||1849||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. Danish law does not operate with any notion of "ethnicity," but Non-resident citizens are still excluded from voting after two years abroad.|
|1918||1917||1918||1917||Estonia||Two tiered elections were held, with 62 representatives from rural communities and towns elected in May–June and July–August, respectively.|
|1979||1979||1979||1979||European Union||Elections to the European Parliament have taken place since 1979.|
|1944||1848||1944||1848||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.|
|1906||1906||1906||1906||Finland||As an autonomous Grand Principality in the Russian Empire, Finland achieved universal suffrage in 1906, becoming the second country in the world to adopt universal suffrage. 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||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. After the German Revolution of 1918–19, the Weimar Constitution established universal suffrage in 1919 with a minimum voting age of 20.|
|1919||1919||1919||1919||Georgia||The first democratic elections were held on 14–16 February 1919. 5 women were elected in total (for Menshevik party) to take part in national legistature numbering 130MPs. In 1921, Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union .|
|1951||1951||1951||1951||Ghana||Universal suffrage was granted for the 1951 legislative election. This was the first election to be held in Africa under universal suffrage.|
|1952||1844||1952||1844||Greece||After the Revolution of 3 September 1843, the Greek Constitution of 1844 with the electoral law of 18 March 1844 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||1991||Hong Kong||Held its first legislative elections in 1991, elected part of the legislators. Until now Hong Kong can still only elect half of the legislators. All registered voters are eligible to vote.|
|1918||1918||1918||1867||Hungary||After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I.
Somewhat reverted in 1925: women's voting age raised to 30, education and wealth requirements were raised. In rural constituencies open voting was reinstated. The rate of eligible citizens fell to 29%.
|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, Since in India, too, all people are of the same race, and all people doesn’t have non-Indian ethnic origins.|
|1963||1906||1963||1906||Iran||Under "Constitutional Revolution". The White Revolution gave women the right to vote in 1963.|
|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.|
|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 served in the army. Universal adult suffrage, including women, introduced in 1945, and applied for the first time in the referendum of 1946. Suffrage for men and women aged 18 granted in 1975.|
|1944||1944||1944||1944||Jamaica||Universal adult suffrage introduced.|
|1947||1925||1947||1925||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 3 May 1947.|
|2005||1962||2005||1962||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||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).|
|1951||1946||1946||–||Liberia||Liberia denies political rights for non-Black people. See: Liberian nationality law|
|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.|
|1953||1917||1953||1917||Mexico||Universal suffrage given to men in 1917 after the Mexican Revolution; suffrage given to women in municipal elections in 1947 and national elections in 1953. In 1996, Mexicans living in the United States were given the right to vote in Mexican elections.|
|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||1879||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, suffrage previously having been universal for Māori men over 21 from 1867, and for white men from 1879. Plural voting (impacting men) was abolished in 1889.|
|1913||1898||1913||1851||Norway||Full male suffrage in 1898, with women included in 1913. Tax-paying Sami men were granted suffrage in a revision of the constitution in 1821. The so-called Jew clause in the Constitution of 1814 explicitly banned Jews from entering and residing in the kingdom. It was repealed in 1851, paving the way for Jews to live, pay taxes and vote in Norway.|
|1956||1951||1956||1951||Pakistan||In 1956, women were granted the right to vote in national elections. *Pakistan adopted universal adult suffrage for provisional assembly elections soon after it became independent in 1947. The first direct elections held in the country after independence were for the provincial Assembly of the Punjab between 10–20 March 1951|
|1979||1979||1979||1979||Peru||Suffrage was granted for women in 1955 but suffrage for the illiterate was only granted with the 1979 Constitution.|
|1946||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 a plebiscite in 1937.|
|1918||1918||1918||1918||Poland||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 (1919 Polish legislative election), according to the decree introducing universal suffrage, signed by Józef Piłsudski on 28 November 1918, immediately after restoring independent Polish state. Universal suffrage for men and women over 21.|
|1974||1974||1974||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.|
|[date missing]||2013||[date missing]||[date missing]||Qatar||Municipal elections since 1999.|
|1948||1918||1948||1918||Romania||The universal suffrage for men established by Royal Decree in November 1918, the first elections using universal suffrage took place in November 1919. Literate women were given the right to vote in the local elections in 1929 and the electoral law of 1939 extended the active voting rights to all literate citizens which were 30 years old or older. The universal suffrage was granted by the 1948 Constitution of Romania.|
|1917||1917||1917||1917||Russia||Universal suffrage established by Declaration of the Provisional Government of 15 March 1917 and Statute on Elections of the Constituent Assembly of 2 August 1917.|
|2015||2005||2015||2005||Saudi Arabia||Municipal elections only|
|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).|
|1945||1888||1945||1888||Serbia||Suffrage for male voters who paid taxes was granted in the Constitution of 1869, and in the Constitution of 1888 the right to vote was given to all males of age 21. Women were allowed to vote with the Communist constitution of Yugoslavia.|
|1948||1948||1948||1948||South Korea||Universal suffrage since the founding of the Republic of Korea. However, voting was initially limited to landowners and taxpayers in the larger towns, elders voting for everyone at the village level.|
|1933||1890||1933||1933||Spain||Universal suffrage for men from 1869 to 1878 (First Spanish Republic) and from 1890 to the end of the Second Spanish Republic (1931–36). On 19 November 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.|
|1945||1909||1919||1873||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, 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.|
|1971||1848||1971||1866||Switzerland||At the formation of the federal state in 1848, Switzerland introduced universal male suffrage. Jews did not have the same political rights as Christian citizens until 1866. Women's suffrage was introduced, by (male) referendum, on the federal level in 1971. On the level of the constituent states of the confederacy, universal male suffrage is first attested in Uri in 1231, in Schwyz in 1294 and in Unterwalden in 1309 (Landsgemeinde). The last canton to introduce women's suffrage (Appenzell Innerrhoden) had to do so by federal court order in 1990.|
|1947||1947||1947||1947||Taiwan||Universal suffrage under the Constitution of the Republic of China. First National Assembly elections held in 1947, first legislative elections held in 1948. First presidential election held in 1948.|
|1933||1933||1933||1933||Thailand||Universal suffrage for all since the first general election in 1933.|
|1959||[date missing]||[date missing]||[date missing]||Tunisia||Universal suffrage for all since the first post-independence constitution.|
|–||2006||2006||2006||United Arab Emirates||Limited suffrage for both men and women|
|1928||1918||1928||1829 (Only White British)
|United Kingdom||In the United Kingdom the removal of voting rights based on religion occurred with the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 and Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. The right to vote has never since been based on race or religion.[nb 1] All adult men were enfranchised by the Representation of the People Act 1918. This Act granted women over 30 the right to vote 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. The Representation of the People Act 1948 removed plural voting rights held by about 7% of the electorate.[nb 3] 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||[date missing]||[date missing]||[date missing]||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.|
|1965[nb 4]||1856[nb 5]||1920[nb 6]||1965[nb 7]||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.
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). 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. Poor voters became a huge part of the electorate. By 1856, after the period of Jacksonian democracy, all states had almost universal white adult male suffrage regardless of property ownership. Tax-paying requirements remained in five states, and two into the 20th century.
In 1868, the 14th Amendment altered the way each state is represented in the House of Representatives. It counted all residents for apportionment including former 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.
Starting in 1888, former Confederate states passed Jim Crow laws and amendments to effectively disfranchise black and poor white 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. 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.
In 1964, the 24th Amendment, which abolished the use of poll taxes as a requirement for voting in federal elections, was passed. Full enfranchisement was revived in 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal enforcement of rights. For state elections, it was not until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) that all state poll taxes were unconstitutional as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This removed a burden on the poor.
In 1971, the 26th Amendment ratified, which granted suffrage for men and women aged 18.
|1918||[date missing]||[date missing]||[date missing]||Uruguay||With the 1918 Uruguayan Constitution.|
|1987||[date missing]||1919||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. Though white women were granted the right to vote in 1919.|
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. 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.
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. The world's first female members of parliament were elected in Finland the following year.
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.
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.
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.
By 1840, only three states retained a property qualification, North Carolina (for some state-wide offices only), Rhode Island, and Virginia. In 1856 North Carolina was the last state to end the practice. Tax-paying qualifications were also gone in all but a few states by the Civil War, but they survived into the 20th century in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
NYRA has been campaigning for a lower voting age since we were founded in 1998, and we are overjoyed that pro-youth policies are finally close to passing on the national level thanks to our years of local advocacy in towns such as Takoma Park, MD where we helped lower the voting age in 2013.
|Look up universal suffrage in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Universal suffrage|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Universal suffrage.|