Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, distinct from other rights to vote, is the right to vote gained through the democratic process. 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. 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 sometimes called active suffrage and passive suffrage. Suffrage is often conceived in terms of elections for representatives; however, suffrage applies equally to initiative and referendum. Suffrage describes not only the legal right to vote, but also the practical question of whether a question will be put to a vote. The utility of suffrage is reduced when important questions are decided unilaterally by elected or non-elected representatives. 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 considered natural law. Citizens become eligible to vote after reaching the voting age, which is typically 18 years as of 2012. Most democracies no longer extend different rights to vote 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). -------------------------------------------------
Types of suffrage
Main article: Universal suffrage
Where Universal suffrage exists, the right to vote is not restricted by sex, race, social status, or wealth. 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). In 1893, New Zealand became the first major nation to achieve universal suffrage, and the Freedom in the World index lists New Zealand as the only free country in the world in 1893. In 1906, Finland became the second country in the world, and the first in Europe, to grant universal suffrage to its citizens.
German election poster from 1919: Equal rights - equal duties! Main article: Women's suffrage
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. Limited voting rights were gained by some women in Sweden, Britain, and some western U.S. states in the 1860s. In 1893, the British colony of New Zealandbecame the first self-governing nation to extend the right to vote to all adult women. In 1894 the women of South Australia achieved the right to both vote and stand for Parliament. The autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire was the first European nation to allow all women to both vote and run for parliament. 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. Census suffrage
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