Universal suffrage (also general suffrage or common suffrage) consists of the extension of the right to vote to all citizens (or subjects), though some definitions exclude granting that right to minors 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 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 initially referred to adult male suffrage. The First French Republic was the second nation that adopted universal male suffrage, doing so in 1792; it was one of the first national system that abolished all property requirements as a prerequisite for allowing men to register and vote. Greece recognized full male suffrage in 1830 and France and Switzerland have continuously done so since the 1848 Revolution (for resident male citizens). Upon independence in the 19th century, several Latin American countries and Liberia in Africa initially extented suffrage to all adult males, but subsequently restricted it based on property requirements. The German Empire implemented full male suffrage in 1871. The United States theoretically adopted full male suffrage with the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870, but this was not practically implemented in the South until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 1893 New Zealand became the first nation in the world (bar the short-lived 18th century Corsican Republic) to grant universal, male and female adult suffrage. In most countries, full universal suffrage followed about a generation after full male suffrage. Notable exceptions in Europe were France, where women could not vote until 1944, Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971 in federal elections and 1990 in all cantonal elections). It is worth noting that countries that took a long time to adopt women's suffrage were often actually pioneers in granting universal male suffrage.
In the first modern democracies, governments restricted the vote to those with property and wealth, which almost always meant a minority of the male population. In some jurisdictions, other restrictions existed, such as requiring voters to practice a given religion. In all modern democracies, the number of people who could vote has increased progressively with time. In the 19th century in Europe, Great Britain and North America, there were movements advocating "universal [male] suffrage". 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 requires the right to vote to be granted to all its residents. All countries, however, do not allow certain categories of citizens to vote. All countries currently have a minimum age, usually coinciding with the age of majority, and several countries impose felony disenfranchisement and disfranchisement based on resident status and citizenship. Saudi Arabia was the last major country that did not allow women to vote, but admitted women both to voting and candidacy in the 2015 municipal elections.
Usage examples of "universal suffrage".
And all the more because the class from which I am obliged to take him is almost always that of politicians, a suspicious class, especially in countries in which universal suffrage prevails.
In some areas a representative parliament was selected by a Universal Suffrage, much along the lines of our own Westminster Parliament.