Universal suffrage


Probably one of the main rights that the inhabitants of a town have. The universal suffrage is a right of the people to exercise the vote regardless of their race , their sex or their beliefs . It is not simply the fact that everyone can vote but that all votes have the same value . It is the solid foundation that represents the democratic state . The International Law of Human Rights of man , also proclaims the universalityof suffrage as the foundation of electoral rights of an international nature.


What is universal suffrage?

Universal suffrage is the main method for citizen participation in democracy . It is the right of men to vote during presidential elections .

  • Characteristics of universal suffrage
  • Source
  • History
  • Types
  • Limitations
  • Universal suffrage by country
  • Importance of universal suffrage

Characteristics of universal suffrage

The main characteristics that we can observe in universal suffrage are the following:

  • It is a right that applies to people who have already reached 18 years of age, in some countries 15 years and 21 years of age.
  • In order to exercise universal suffrage, there must be no legal limitations.
  • Foreigners who are not nationalized cannot vote in a country other than their own.
  • It represents the main source of legitimacy of the political exercise .
  • It is universal since everyone has the right to vote.
  • It is secret because people are not required to express their electoral preferences.
  • The direct one because it is not voted for secondary representatives but for the preferred candidate.


The origin of universal suffrage has its roots in antiquity , specifically in the Greco-Roman world , in Athens during the 5th and 6th centuries BC . At that time senators and some public offices were elected by vote in ancient Rome .


Before suffrage was recognized as universal and as a human right, a series of confrontations and social struggles had to take place . With the arrival of the seventeenth century , there was an important change in the thinking of the political world , mainly during the time of the Enlightenment and Rationalism . The first vote by deputies took place in the Girondin Constitution , where the census vote was instituted, excluding women from decision-making. It was the Constitution of 1793responsible for establishing universal suffrage for men, establishing him the right to rebel and equality of rights for the French.

Regarding the struggle for the female vote throughout history, it has been an emblem of citizen and political rights that had been denied to many groups despite social pressure , organized struggle and numerous deaths . The female vote was obtained during the 19th century.  One of the first to recognize it was South Australia in 1861. And among the last countries was Spain in 1931.


Among the types of universal suffrage that exist, we mention the following:

  • Universal suffrage is the type of suffrage in which all people who are older in age , regardless of whether they are women and men, regardless of race, creed or social status can exercise the right to vote .
  • Census suffrage : this is a restricted vote in which only some men, those who met a series of requirements such as level of education , payment of rent and social class could vote.
  • Male suffrage: it was a suffrage in which all men who knew how to read and write participated .
  • Female suffrage : it is the vote of women . On many occasions it was restricted in a discriminatory way due to reasons of age , studies or marital status .
  • Mandatory suffrage : the right to vote is an obligation to vote.


Despite the fact that suffrage has been considered as a great achievement of democracy and as an essential part of all types of modern political systems , throughout history suffrage has suffered a series of exceptions depending on the country. Different constraints can have universal suffrage are mainly related to the status of foreigner you may have a person with the absence or limitation of the ability of a citizen to vote with free judgment , for reasons purely of agemental health or due obedience , as in the case of the military or people who are deprived of liberty .

Universal suffrage by country

  • Spain : it was established at the end of the 19th century when census suffrage was practiced, favoring an opulent minority and differentiated from the others. It is through universal suffrage that the Constitution of the country recognizes the representatives who are elected by the people in the Congress and the Senate . Through voting, citizens give their representatives the legal power to act on their behalf.
  • Argentina : from the application of the electoral law , Argentina managed to have its suffrage, although at the beginning it was not universal since it was exclusive formale naturalized Argentines over 18 years of age. The vote for women came a long time after having come a long way. Thanks to Eva Perón , the female vote was established in the country.
  • Chile : in this country it exists in suffrage from the electoral regulation that was dictated by the First National Board of Government of Chile in the year 1810 and that has been maintained to this day. At the beginning, only the richest sectors had the right to vote, but in 1874 universal suffrage was established .
  • Mexico : Modern elections with the universal vote began in 1810 under an institutional crisis that caused the occupation of Bonaparte in Spain. This fact was the one that marked the beginning of the vote in Mexico. Voting for women was more difficult to achieve, and even in the mid -20th century , Mexican women could not vote .

Importance of universal suffrage

Universal suffrage is very important for any society that enjoys a democracy because it is the one that is in charge of representing the power and duty of a destined society, choosing the one that a nation will have, approving or rejecting the proposals made by politicians and their matches. Suffrage allows us to claim the minority , and have political representatives to defend the rights of everyone in society.

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