Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise is the civil right to vote, or the exercise of that right. In English, suffrage and its synonyms are sometimes also used to mean the right to run for office (to be a candidate), but there are no established qualifying terms to distinguish between these different meanings of the term(s). The right to run for office is sometimes called (candidate) eligibility, and the combination of both rights is sometimes called full suffrage.[1] In many other languages, the right to vote is called the active right to vote and the right to be voted for (to run for office) is called the passive right to vote. In English, these are rarely called active suffrage and passive suffrage.[2]

Suffrage may apply to elections, but also extends to initiatives and referendums. Suffrage is used to describe not only the legal right to vote, but also to the practical question of the opportunity to vote, which is sometimes denied those who have a legal right. In the United States, extension of suffrage was part of Jacksonian democracy.

In most democracies, eligible voters can vote in elections of representatives. Voting on issues by initiative may be available in some jurisdictions but not others. For example, Switzerland permits initiatives at all levels of government whereas the United States does not offer initiatives at the federal level or in many states. That new constitutions must be approved by referendum is natural law.

Typically citizens become eligible to vote after reaching the age of legal adulthood. Most democracies no longer extend different voting rights on the basis of sex or race. Resident aliens can vote in some countries and in others exceptions are made for citizens of countries with which they have close links (e.g. some members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the members of the European Union).


[edit] Types of suffrage

[edit] Universal suffrage

Where Universal suffrage exists, the right to vote is not restricted by race, gender, belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, wealth, or social status. It typically does not extend a right to vote to all residents of a region; distinctions are frequently made in regard to citizenship, age, and occasionally mental capacity or criminal convictions.

The short-lived Corsican Republic (1755-1769) was the first country to grant limited universal suffrage for all inhabitants over the age of 25. This was followed by other experiments in the Paris Commune of 1871 and the island republic of Franceville (1889), and then by New Zealand in 1893. Finland was the first European country to grant universal suffrage to its citizens in its 1906 elections, and the first country in the world to make every citizen eligible to run for parliament.

[edit] Women's suffrage

German election poster from 1919: Equal rights - equal duties!

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote on the same terms as men. This was the goal of the suffragists and the "Suffragettes".

[edit] Equal suffrage

Equal suffrage is sometimes confused with Universal suffrage, although its meaning is the removal of graded votes, where a voter could possess a number of votes in accordance with income, wealth or social status.

[edit] Census suffrage

Also known as "censitary suffrage", the opposite of Equal suffrage, meaning that the votes cast by those eligible to vote are not equal, but are weighed differently according to the person's rank in the census (e.g., people with high income have more votes than those with a small income, or a stockholder in a company with more shares has more votes than someone with fewer shares). Suffrage may therefore be limited, usually to the propertied classes, but can still be universal, including, for instance, women or ethnic minorities, if they meet the census.

[edit] Compulsory suffrage

Where Compulsory suffrage exists, those who are eligible to vote are required by law to do so. Thirty-two countries currently practice this form of suffrage.

[edit] Forms of exclusion from suffrage

[edit] Religion

In the aftermath of the Reformation it was common in European countries for people of disfavored religious denominations to be denied civil and political rights, often including the right to vote, to stand for election or to sit in parliament. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Roman Catholics were denied the right to vote from 1728 to 1793, and the right to sit in parliament until 1829. The anti-Catholic policy was justified on the grounds that the loyalty of Catholics supposedly lay with the Pope rather than the national monarch.

In England and Ireland, several Acts practically disenfranchised non-Anglicans or non-Protestants by imposing an oath before admission to vote or to run for office. The 1672 and 1678 Test Acts forbade non-Anglicans from holding public offices, the 1727 Disenfranchising Act took away Catholics' (Papists') voting rights in Ireland, which were restored only in 1788. Jews could not even be naturalized. An attempt was made to change this situation, but the Jewish Naturalization Act 1753 provoked such reactions that it was repealed the next year. Nonconformists (Methodists and Presbyterians) were only allowed to run for elections to the British House of Commons in 1828, Catholics in 1829 (following the Catholic Relief Act 1829), and Jews in 1858 (with the Emancipation of the Jews in England). Benjamin Disraeli could only begin his political career in 1837 because he had been converted to Anglicanism at the age of 12.

In several British North American colonies, even the Declaration of Independence, Jews, Quakers or Catholics were denied voting rights and/or forbidden to run for office.[3] The Delaware Constitution of 1776 stated that "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall (...) also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.".[4] This was repealed by article I, section 2 of the 1792 Constitution: "No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, under this State.".[5] The 1778 Constitution of the State of South Carolina stated that "No person shall be eligible to sit in the house of representatives unless he be of the Protestant religion",[6] the 1777 Constitution of the State of Georgia (art. VI) that "The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county (...) and they shall be of the Protestent (sic) religion".[7] In Maryland, voting rights and eligibility were extended to Jews in 1828.[8]

In Canada, several religious groups (Mennonites, Hutterites, Doukhobors) were disenfranchised by the war-time Elections Act of 1917, mainly because they opposed military service. This disenfranchisement ended with the end of the First World War, but was renewed for Doukhobors from 1934 (Dominion Elections Act) to 1955.[9]

The first Constitution of modern Romania in 1866 provided in article 7 that only Christians could become Romanian citizens. Jews native to Romania were declared stateless persons. In 1879, under pressure of the Berlin Peace Conference, this article was amended granting non-Christians the right to become Romanian citizens, but naturalization was granted on a case-by-case basis and was subject to Parliament approval. An application took over ten years to process. Only in 1923 was a new constitution adopted, whose article 133 extended Romanian citizenship to all Jewish residents and equality of rights to all Romanian citizens.[10]

In the Republic of Maldives, only Muslim Maldivian citizens have voting rights and are eligible for parliamentary elections.[11]

[edit] Wealth, tax class, social class

Until the nineteenth century, many Western democracies had property qualifications in their electoral laws; e.g. only landowners could vote, or the voting rights were weighed according to the amount of taxes paid (as in the Prussian three-class franchise). Most countries abolished the property qualification for national elections in the late nineteenth century, but retained it for local government elections for several decades. Today these laws have largely been abolished, although the homeless may not be able to register because they lack regular addresses.

In the United Kingdom, prior to the House of Lords Act 1999, peers who were members of the House of Lords were excluded from voting for the House of Commons because they were not commoners. The sovereign is also ineligible to vote in British parliamentary elections.

[edit] Knowledge

Sometimes the right to vote has been limited to people who had achieved a certain level of education or passed a certain test, e.g. "literacy tests" in some states of the US.

In practice, the composition and application of these tests were frequently manipulated so as to functionally limit the electorate on the basis of other characteristics like wealth or race.

[edit] Race

Various countries, usually with large non-white populations, have historically denied the vote to people of particular races or to non-whites in general. This has been achieved in a number of ways:

  • Official - laws and regulations passed specifically disenfranchising people of particular races (for example South Africa under apartheid).
  • Indirect - nothing in law specifically prevents anyone from voting on account of their race, but other laws or regulations are used to exclude people of a particular race. In southern states of the U.S. before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, literacy and other tests were used to disenfranchise African-Americans. Property qualifications have tended to disenfranchise non-whites, particularly if tribally-owned land is not allowed to be taken into consideration. In some cases (such as early colonial New Zealand) property qualifications were deliberately used to disenfranchise non-whites; in other cases this was an unintended (but usually welcome) consequence.
  • Unofficial - nothing in law prevents anyone from voting on account of their race, but people of particular races are intimidated or otherwise prevented from exercising this right.

[edit] Age

All modern democracies require voters to meet age qualifications to vote. Worldwide voting ages are not consistent, differing between countries and even within counties, usually between 16 and 21 years.

[edit] Criminality

Many countries restrict the voting rights of convicted criminals. Some countries, and some U.S. states, also deny the right to vote to those convicted of serious crimes after they are released from prison. In some cases (e.g. the felony disenfranchisement laws found in many U.S. states) the denial of the right to vote is automatic on a felony conviction; in other cases (e.g. France and Germany) deprivation of the vote is meted out separately, often limited to certain crimes such as those against the electoral system. In the Republic of Ireland, prisoners are not specifically denied the right to vote, but are also not provided access to a ballot station, so are effectively disenfranchised. Canada allowed only prisoners serving a term of less than 2 years the right to vote, but this was found unconstitutional in 2002 by the Supreme Court of Canada in Sauv v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer), and all prisoners were allowed to vote as of the 2004 Canadian federal election.

[edit] Residency

Under certain electoral systems elections are held within subnational jurisdictions, preventing persons who would otherwise be eligible from voting because they do not reside within such a jurisdiction, or because they live in an area which cannot participate. In the United States, residents of Washington, DC receive no voting representation in Congress, although they have (de facto) full representation in presidential elections. Residents of Puerto Rico have neither. Sometimes citizens become ineligible to vote because they are no longer resident in their country of citizenship. For example, Australian citizens who have been outside Australia more than one and less than six years may excuse themselves from the requirement to vote in Australian elections while they remain outside Australia (voting in Australia is compulsory for resident citizens).[12]

[edit] Nationality

In most countries, suffrage is limited to citizens and, in many cases, permanent residents of that country. However, some members of supra-national organisations such as the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Union have given voting rights to citizens of all countries within that organisation. Until the mid-twentieth century, many Commonwealth countries gave the vote to all British citizens in the country, regardless of whether they were normally resident there. In most cases this was because there was no distinction between British and local citizenship. Several countries qualified this with restrictions preventing non-white British citizens such as Indians and British Africans from voting. Under European Union law, citizens of European Union countries can vote in each others' local and European Parliament elections on the same basis as citizens of the country in question.

[edit] Naturalization

In some countries, naturalized citizens do not enjoy the right of vote and/or to be candidate, either permanently or for a determined period.

Article 5 of the 1831 Belgian Constitution made a difference between ordinary naturalization, and grande naturalisation. Only (former) foreigners who had been granted grande naturalisation were entitled to vote or be candidate for parliamentary elections or to be appointed as minister. However, ordinary naturalized citizens could vote for municipal elections.[13] Ordinary naturalized citizens and citizens who had acquired Belgian nationality through marriage were only admitted to vote, but not to be candidate, for parliamentary elections in 1976. The concepts of ordinary and grande naturalization were suppressed from the Constitution in 1991.[14]

In France, the 1889 Nationality Law barred those who had acquired the French nationality by naturalization or marriage from voting, eligibility and access to several public jobs. In 1938 the delay was reduced to 5 years.[15] These discriminations, as well as others against naturalized citizens, were gradually abolished in 1973 (9 January 1973 law) and 1983.

In Morocco, a former French protectorate, and in Guinea, a former French colony, naturalized citizens are prohibited from voting for 5 years after their naturalization.[16][17]

In the Federated States of Micronesia, Micronesian citizenship for a minimum of 15 years is an eligibility condition to be elected to the parliament.[18]

In Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines, only citizens by birth are eligible for being elected to parliament; naturalized citizens enjoy only voting rights[19].[20][21]

In Uruguay, naturalized citizens have the right of eligibility to the parliament after 5 years.[22]

In the United States, the President and Vice President must be natural-born citizens. All other governmental offices may be held by any citizen.

[edit] Function

In France, an 1872 law, rescinded only by a 1945 decree, prohibited all army personnel from voting.[23]

In the United Kingdom, public servants have to resign before running for an election.[24]

The 1876 Constitution of Texas (article VI, section 1) stated that "The following classes of persons shall not be allowed to vote in this State, to wit: (...) Fifth--All soldiers, marines and seamen, employed in the service of the army or navy of the United States.".[25]

Most countries that exercise separation of powers forbid a person from being a member of a legislature and a government official at the same time. Such provisions are found, for example, in Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

[edit] History of suffrage around the world

Finland was the first nation in the world to give all citizens full suffrage, in other words the right to vote and to run for office (in 1906). New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant all citizens the right to vote (in 1893), but women did not get the right to run for the New Zealand legislature until 1919.

[edit] History of suffrage in Canada

  • 1916 - Manitoba becomes the first province where women have the right to vote in provincial elections.[citation needed]
  • 1918 - Women gain full voting rights in federal elections.[26]
  • 1919 - Women gain the right to run for federal office.[26]
  • 1948[citation needed] - Racial exclusions are removed from election laws.
  • 1955[citation needed] - Religious exclusions are removed from election laws.
  • 1960[citation needed] - Right to vote is extended unconditionally to First Nations people. (Previously they could vote only by giving up their status as First Nations people; this requirement was removed.)
  • 1960 - Right to vote in advance is extended to all electors willing to swear they would be absent on election day.[citation needed]
  • 1970[citation needed] - Voting age lowered from 21 to 18.
  • 1982 - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all adult citizens the right to vote.
  • 1988 - Supreme Court of Canada rules mentally ill patients have the right to vote.[27]
  • 1993[citation needed] - Any elector can vote in advance.
  • 2002 - Prisoners given the right to vote in the riding in which they received their conviction. All adult Canadians except the Chief and Deputy Returning Officers can now vote in Canada.[28]

[edit] History of suffrage in New Zealand

  • 1853 - British government passes the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, granting limited self rule, including a bicameral parliament to the colony. The vote was limited to male British subjects aged 21 or over who owned or rented sufficient property, and were not imprisoned for a serious offence. Communally owned land was excluded from the property qualification, thus disenfranchising most Mäori (indigenous) men.
  • 1860 - Franchise extended to holders of miner's licenses who met all voting qualifications except that of property.
  • 1867 - Mäori seats established, giving Mäori four reserved seats in the lower house. There was no property qualification; thus Mäori men gained universal suffrage before any other group of New Zealanders. However, the number of seats did not reflect the size of the Mäori population.
  • 1879 - Property requirement abolished.
  • 1893 - Women given equal voting rights with men, making New Zealand the first nation in the world to allow their adult women to vote.
  • 1969 - Voting age lowered to 20.
  • 1974 - Voting age lowered to 18.
  • 1975 - Franchise extended to permanent residents of New Zealand, regardless of whether they have citizenship.
  • 1996 - Number of Mäori seats increased to reflect Mäori population.

[edit] History of suffrage in Australia

  • 1884 - Henrietta Dugdale forms the first Australian women–s suffrage society in Melbourne.
  • 1894 - South Australian women eligible to vote.[29]
  • 1902 - Women able to vote federally, and in the state of New South Wales.
  • 1921 - Edith Cowan elected to the West Australian Legislative Assembly as member for West Perth, the first woman elected to any Australian Parliament.[30]
  • 1962 - Aboriginal peoples guaranteed the right to vote in Commonwealth elections

[edit] History of suffrage in the Muslim world

[edit] History of suffrage in Japan

[edit] History of suffrage in the United Kingdom

Suffrage in the United Kingdom was slowly changed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries to allow universal suffrage through the use of the Reform Acts and the Representation of the People Acts.

[edit] History of suffrage in the United States

In the United States, suffrage is determined by the separate states, not federally (Wyoming being the first state to enstill suffrage). However, the "right to vote" is expressly mentioned in five Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These five Amendments limit the basis upon which the right to vote may be abridged or denied:

  • 15th Amendment (1870): "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."
  • 19th Amendment (1920): "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 sex."
  • 24th Amendment (1964): "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."
  • 26th Amendment (1971): "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."

In addition, the 23rd Amendment (1961): provides that residents of the District of Columbia can vote for the President and Vice-President.

[edit] Etymology

The words suffrage comes from Latin suffragium, meaning "vote", "political support", and the right to vote.[31][32][33] The etymology of the Latin word is uncertain, with some sources citing Latin suffragari "lend support, vote for someone", from sub "under" + fragor "crash, din, shouts (as of approval)", related to frangere "to break" (related to fraction). Other sources say that attempts to connect suffragium with fragor cannot be taken seriously.[34] Some etymologists think that it may be related to suffrago and may have originally meant an ankle bone or knuckle bone.[34]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Williamson, Chilton (1960), American Suffrage. From property to democracy, Princeton University Press 
  4. ^ Constitution of Delaware, 1776, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School,, retrieved 2007-12-07 
  5. ^ State Constitution (Religious Sections) - Delaware, The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State],, retrieved 2007-12-07 
  6. ^ An Act for establishing the constitution of the State of South Carolina, March 19, 1778, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School,, retrieved 2007-12-05 
  7. ^ Constitution of Georgia, 5 February 1777, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School,, retrieved 2007-12-07 
  8. ^ An Act for the relief of Jews in Maryland, passed February 26, 1825, Archives of Maryland, Volume 3183, Page 1670, February 26, 1825,, retrieved 2007-12-05 
  9. ^ A History of the Vote in Canada, Chapter 3 Modernization, 1920–1981, Elections Canada, Last Modified: 2007-7-9,, retrieved 2007-12-06 
  10. ^ Chronology - From the History Museum of the Romanian Jews; Hasefer Publishing House, The Romanian Jewish Community,, retrieved 2007-12-06 
  11. ^ "Maldives". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  12. ^ Australian Electoral Commission, "Voting Overseas - Frequently Asked Questions", 20 November 2007
  13. ^ Delcour, M.C., Trait thorique et pratique du droit lectoral appliqu aux lections communales, Louvain, Ickx & Geets, 1842, p.16
  14. ^ Lambert, Pierre-Yves (1999), La participation politique des allochtones en Belgique - Historique et situation bruxelloise, Academia-Bruylant (coll. Sybidi Papers), Louvain-la-Neuve,, retrieved 2007-12-06 
  15. ^ Patrick Weil, Nationalit franaise (dbat sur la)", dans Jean-Franois Sirinelli (dir.), Dictionnaire historique de la vie politique franaise au XXe sicle, Paris, PUF, 1995, p. 719-721
  16. ^ Nadia Bernoussi, L–volution du processus lectoral au Maroc, 22/12/2005
  17. ^ art. 3, al. 3, Loi Organique portant code lectoral guinen
  18. ^ "Federated States of Micronesia". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  19. ^ "Nicaragua". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  20. ^ "Peru". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  21. ^ "Philippines". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  22. ^ "Uruguay". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  23. ^ (in French) ([dead link]Scholar search) Plnitude de la Rpublique et extension du suffrage universel, Assemble nationale (National Assembly of France),, retrieved 2007-12-05 
  24. ^ (in French) Fonction publique et mandats lectifs dans l'Union europenne, tudes de lgislation compare, Assemble nationale (National Assembly of France), May 2006,, retrieved 2007-12-05 
  25. ^ Constitution of the State of Texas (1876), Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas School of Law,, retrieved 2007-12-08 
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^
  28. ^ Sauv v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer)
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ [3]
  32. ^ [4]
  33. ^ [5]
  34. ^ a b [6]

[edit] Bibliography

  • Neill Atkinson, Adventures in Democracy: A History of the Vote in New Zealand (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2003).
  • Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2000). ISBN 0-465-02968-X
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Reports on Voting (2005) ISBN 978-0837731032
  • "Smallest State in the World," New York Times, June 19, 1896, p 6
  • A History of the Vote in Canada, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, 2007.

[edit] External links

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