Universal suffrage is a term that is used to refer to the right of adult citizens to vote. Suffrage includes the right to vote as well as the opportunities that are available to vote. Universal suffrage however refers mainly to the right to vote (wordnet. princeton. edu). A government should therefore seek the mandate of the people to continue being in office. Traditionally, universal male suffrage referred to the right of males to vote irrespective of their economic status. Each male was not required to show any wealth ownership in order to vote.
France started practicing universal male suffrage as early as 1792 during the revolutionally period but only in theory. They however faced severe challenges during this period and the theory did not materialize until 1848 when resident citizens were granted this right. In most countries around the globe, voting rights were only extended to those who proved their wealth ownership who were only a few males. Other world democracies considered religion as an important factor which decided who to vote. As time went by, most of these restrictions were dropped and many citizens got the opportunity to cast their vote.
This was due to the role that democratic movements played in the 19th century by unifying Liberals and Social Democrats in northern Europe. The movements were quite fruitful as their slogans like Equal and Common Suffrage finally granted full universal suffrage to even women. ( By Republican (not a “Radical”) Universal Suffrage: Female Suffrage). France however denied women the right to vote until 1944. Even though full universal suffrage was practiced later, some citizens did not benefit from the privilege of voting especially criminals, the mentally ill and non resident citizens.
Various movements contributed to the campaigns that saw the birth of full universal suffrage. In the 19th century, the movements aimed at removing wealth requirements for voters. It later campaigned for the right of women to participate in the voting process in the 20th century. The 2nd world war was a major setback to the enactment of the universal suffrage because it interfered with the normal legal process of many nations. Race and ethnicity are other major factors that have hindered many citizens from voting.
Many nations in the world denied minority groups the right to vote on the basis of their race or ethnicity. For instance, in South Africa, the people who could only vote were whites during the apartheid era. This continued until 1994 when mult-party democracy was instituted. Similarly the blacks were also not allowed to vote in the United States of America even though they had that right. The formation of the Ku Klux Klan after the American Civil War ensured that blacks were intimidated in order not to vote.
Disfranchisement refers to denying someone the right to vote. In the United States of America, the poor were denied the right to vote if they paid no taxes or if they were under a welfare system which gave them assistance. Non resident citizens are also denied this right to a certain degree; Italians are represented by a representative at-large in the Italian parliament, United States citizens who live outside the U. S. usually vote as residents of the last state where they lived while non resident Britons are not allowed to vote for their parliament.