Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Universal suffrage (also general suffrage or common suffrage) consists of the extension of voting privileges to all adults, without distinction as to race, sex, belief or social status. The 19th century featured movements advocating universal male suffrage - the extension of voting to all males regardless of class or race.
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. 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.
Most so-called "universal" suffrage systems still exclude some potential voters. For example, many 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.
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)
- New Zealand -- 1893 (although certain inequalities with Maori votes persisted)
- Finland -- 1906 (in local elections: 1917)
- Norway -- 1913
- Denmark -- 1915 (with Iceland)
- Russia -- 1917
- Canada -- 1918 (last province to enact women's suffrage was Quebec in 1940)
- Ireland -- 1918
- After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I
- Luxembourg - 1919
- The Netherlands - 1919
- United States - 1920 (though with inconsistent enforcement with regards to African Americans in the South until 1965)
- Sweden -- 1921
- Lithuania -- 1922
- Romania -- 1923
- United Kingdom -- 1928
- Spain -- 1931
- Turkey -- 1934
- France -- 1944
- Italy -- 1945
- Japan -- 1945
- Israel -- 1948
- Belgium -- 1948
- India -- 1950 (as part of its constitution)
- Greece -- 1952
- Malaysia -- 1955 (The victory of Union Party convinces the British to grant Malaysia's Independence in 1957)
- Australia -- 1962 (previously not granted to Aborigines)
- United States -- 1965 (previously not enforced with respect to Blacks in all states)
- Portugal -- 1976
- Liechtenstein -- 1984
- Switzerland -- 1990
- South Africa -- 1994
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