Universal suffrage (also universal adult suffrage, general suffrage or common suffrage) consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens (or subjects) as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors (Demeny voting) and non-citizens. Although suffrage has two necessary components, the right to vote and opportunities to vote, the term universal suffrage is associated only with the right to vote and ignores the other aspect, the frequency that an incumbent government consults the electorate. Where universal suffrage exists, the right to vote is not restricted by race, sex, belief, wealth or social status. Historically, universal suffrage often in fact refers to universal adult male suffrage.
The concept of universal suffrage originally referred to all male citizens having the right to vote, regardless of property requirements or other measures of wealth. The first system to explicitly claim to use universal suffrage was France which is generally recognized as the first national system to abolish all property requirements for voting. Republican France first instituted universal male suffrage in 1792. France and Switzerland have used universal male suffrage continuously since 1848 (for resident male citizens), longer than any other countries. The German Empire had universal male suffrage from its beginning in 1871. New Zealand became the first nation in the world to achieve universal (male and female) suffrage in 1893.
In most countries, full universal suffrage – with the inclusion of women – followed universal male suffrage by about ten to twenty years. Notable exceptions were France, where women could not vote until 1945, Italy (1946), Belgium (1948) and Switzerland (1971).
In the first modern democracies, the vote was restricted to those having adequate property and wealth, which almost always meant a minority of the male population. In some jurisdictions, other restrictions existed, such as restrictions on voters of a given religion. In all modern democracies the number of people who could vote increased gradually with time. The 19th century featured movements advocating "universal suffrage" (i.e. male) 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 concept of universal suffrage does not imply any impropriety in placing restrictions on the voting of convicted criminals or mentally ill persons. Such restrictions exist in many countries with universal suffrage. Equally, some universal suffrage systems apply only to resident citizens.
Read more about Universal Suffrage: Expanding Suffrage, Disenfranchisement, Notable Dates For Universal Suffrage in The World, Women's Suffrage, Youth Suffrage, Children's Suffrage and Suffrage in School
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Famous quotes containing the words universal suffrage, suffrage and/or universal:
“The poor, stupid, free American citizen! Free to starve, free to tramp the highways of this great country, he enjoys universal suffrage, and by that right, he has forged chains around his limbs. The reward that he receives is stringent labor laws prohibiting the right of boycott, of picketing, of everything, except the right to be robbed of the fruits of his labor.”
—Emma Goldman (18691940)
“... the most important effect of the suffrage is psychological. The permanent consciousness of power for effective action, the knowledge that their own thoughts have an equal chance with those of any other person ... this is what has always rendered the men of a free state so energetic, so acutely intelligent, so powerful.”
—Mary Putnam Jacobi (18421906)
“This universal exhibition in Canada of the tools and sinews of war reminded me of the keeper of a menagerie showing his animals claws. It was the English leopard showing his claws.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)