Universal suffrage

Universal suffrage is one of the most important features of modern democracies. By this is meant that all citizens have essentially the same right to vote. Nevertheless, exclusion of certain groups of people are in all democracies. For example, the voters or elected must be a citizen of that country or have a fixed set minimum age. At a federal election may only participate, who is 18 years old.

Choice principles

In addition to the general election law, the other, realized in many countries principles of democratic elections that the right to vote free, secret, equal and possibly directly (direct) can be exercised. In many democracies, an election should also be personal, while in other democracies, a voter who can not go to the polling place on election day, may appoint a person trusted with the vote. These principles can be largely attributed for the purposes of today's legal principles on the national constitutions, international law on treaties or the European Convention on Human Rights.

Particularly closely related to the generality of choice is the equality of choice. Determines the general public that "everyone " may choose to determine equality, that each voter may submit the same number of votes and these votes have the same count. A non- universal suffrage is a census suffrage, in which may choose only those who paid about a certain amount in taxes. A class suffrage means that the choice is indeed general, but that voters are divided into classes. If there are in a class far more voters than in another, so the choice is not equal. Inequality is also the plural suffrage, in which a voter has more votes than another, for example, because he has reached a certain advanced age or can boast a university degree.

Limitations of universal suffrage

Today, in most countries universal suffrage is taken for granted. This even applies to non-democratic countries with unfree elections. But long may not select all the inhabitants, even in countries considered democratic. This is motivated, among other things, that some residents do not have the maturity to the act of voting.

The most fundamental limitation is likely to be without citizenship, the exclusion of residents. Partially allowed longer resident strangers on a local level select, because this level is not connected to the state sovereignty. Conversely, it is not self-evident that their nationals abroad must always dial.

Other possible limitations:

  • Only after a certain age (depending on the state and electoral bodies usually between about 16 and 25 years ) may be chosen
  • The passive right to vote ( eligibility ) has special hurdles in many countries
  • Other reasons for exclusion from the right to vote are: Conviction for certain offenses
  • Partly also in mental diseases
  • Incapacitation

Historical development

Even in ancient times there were various forms of elections, such as in the Attic democracy, however, did not include women, slaves, and other items. During the Middle Ages won the first thing the citizenry of the larger cities and their guilds a more extensive voting rights than the rest of the population.

The general ( male) suffrage was first introduced in the United States. This was basically guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution of 1787, however, limited ( to about 1830) part again on the specific choice of law in the American states. The treatment of African Americans regarding the right to vote in the United States must be counted into perspective.

Previously, the right to vote was often associated with an election census, that is, it was only after a certain income or assets. One of the first countries in Europe (after Switzerland and France 1848) with universal ( male) suffrage was the North German Confederation (1867 ) and then the German Empire ( 1871). In the UK, however, the parliamentary system was at least since the 17th century, but only in 1918, universal suffrage was enforced. The right to vote in Britain was made mainly on the economic situation and of belonging to the nobility depending Before 1918. This meant that until 1918 only about 52% of men did indeed have the right to vote.

Since the 20th century then continued in many countries women's suffrage through, especially around 1918. Only because of this choice in the modern sense was common.