Politics in Minutes (2016)

Suffrage

The cornerstone of modern democracy is the notion that citizens can participate in the political process by having the right to vote in elections. For modern democracies, this implies universal suffrage, giving all citizens over a certain age an equal vote. This has not always been the case – women were only reluctantly given the vote from the end of the 19th century, and eligibility for male voters has been conditional on status, education or property ownership. Nowadays, universal suffrage is taken to mean the enfranchising of every adult citizen, regardless of sex, social standing, religion or political persuasion. There are still, however, some who are legally excluded in many countries, including the insane and those serving prison sentences. Then there are those disenfranchised by the processes of registering their right to vote, which often exclude the disadvantaged, such as homeless, illiterate, disabled or unemployed people, or recent immigrants. Conversely, voting is seen in many places as a civic duty rather than a right and in some countries is compulsory.

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