Universal suffrage

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Universal suffrage (also general suffrage or common suffrage) consists of the extension of suffrage, or the right to vote, to all adults, without distinction as to race, sex, belief or social status.

In the first modern democracies only a limited number of people had a say in the running of the government - for example in Britain only landowners had the right to vote from 1265. In all modern democracies the number of people who could vote increased gradually with time. The 19th century featured movements advocating universal male suffrage - the extension to all males regardless of class or race. 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 Movement for Universal Suffrage consisted of a social, economic and political movement aimed at extending suffrage to people of all races.


Expanding suffrage

The first movements toward universal suffrage (or manhood suffrage) occurred in the early 19th century, and focused on removing property requirements for voting. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the focus of universal suffrage became the removal of restrictions against women having the right to vote.

Many societies in the past have denied people the right to vote on the basis of race or ethnicity. For example, non-whites could not vote in apartheid-era South Africa, until the system came to an end with the first free multi-party elections in 1994. In the pre-Civil Rights Era American South blacks often technically had the right to vote, but various means prevented many of them from exercising that right. The Ku Klux Klan formed after the American Civil War, largely to intimidate blacks and to prevent them from voting.

Other disenfranchisement

Some so-called "universal" suffrage systems still exclude some potential voters. For example, some jurisdictions deny the vote to various categories of convicted criminals or the mentally ill, and almost all jurisdictions deny the vote to non-citizen residents and citizens under the age of 18. Similarly, some systems of "universal" suffrage, including some of those below, have excluded those who were too poor to pay any (direct) taxes, or received public assistance.

There is some friendly nationalist competition with regard to which nation that was first with full-blown democratic suffrage. Fans of the United States, New Zealand, Finland and Norway all have their arguments for why their favorite nation is to be seen as the front-runner, which is indicated in the table below.

Universal suffrage in the world

States have granted (and revoked) universal suffrage at various times:
(in chronological order)

See also

External links

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