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Universal suffrage facts for kids

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Suffrage universel
1902 French poster.

Universal suffrage means that every citizen above the age of 18 is allowed to vote. Most countries have universal suffrage, but some do not. In some countries people had to fight to get it. In other countries, it was granted after demonstrations in the main cities. They thought it was important to have it because they wanted to choose who ruled over them.

Dates by country

States have granted and revoked universal suffrage at various times. This list can be organised in three ways:

  • Universal There are no distinctions between voters over a certain age in any part of its territories due to gender, literacy, wealth, social status, religion, race, or ethnicity.
  • Male is for all males over a certain age in the majority ethnic or sectarian group irrespective of literacy, wealth, or social status.
  • Female is for when all women over a certain age can vote on the same terms as men
  • Ethnicity is for when all eligible voters over a certain age can vote on the same terms as the majority group irrespective of religion, race, or ethnicity.

Since historically one group or another might have lost suffrage rights only to regain them later on. This table lists the last uninterrupted time from the present a group was granted the right to vote; if that group's suffrage has been fully restored.

Note: The table can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically using the Sort both.gif icons.
Universal suffrage by country or territory
Universal Male Female Ethnicity Country or territory Notes
1977 1977 1977 1977 Afghanistan 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan transformed Afghanistan into a modern democracy.
1952 1853 1952 1853 Argentina Universal male suffrage was instituted in 1853. Universal, secret and mandatory suffrage for male citizens over 18 years of age was granted by the Sáenz Peña Law (General Election Law) of 1912. It was amended to include female citizens in 1947 but became effective in 1952.
1921 1919 1921 1920 Armenia Joined the nascent Soviet Union in 1920.
1967 1901 1902 1967 Australia In 1855, the parliament of the self-governing Colony of South Australia enacted legislation providing for universal male suffrage. The parliaments of the Colony of Victoria and the Colony of New South Wales followed suit by enacting legislation providing universal male suffrage in 1857 and 1858, respectively.

In 1894 the parliament of the Colony of South Australia enacted legislation providing female adults franchise; giving all adults of the age of majority the right to vote in elections, and for any elector to stand for high office. In 1901, the self-governing colonies of Australia joined together in a federal structure of states. In 1902, the new federal parliament legislated for a white adult franchise and the right of electors to stand for and occupy any office for which they could directly vote. Indigenous people were explicitly excluded. True universal suffrage was not achieved until 1967 when the Commonwealth Electoral Act extended the right to vote to all Australians regardless of race. However, Australia was first united as a federation in 1901. Hence, white female voting rights were not enabled until the nation was united. Voting rights for all white men and women were established in 1902.

1918 1896 1918 1907 Austria Universal suffrage 1896, universal and equal suffrage (removing multiple voting) 1907. Before 1907 unmarried landholding women were allowed to vote. After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I universal suffrage including women.
1919 1919 1919 1919 Azerbaijan Joined the nascent Soviet Union in 1920.
1961 1958 1961 1807 Bahamas Legislation passed in the house in 1961 allowing for Universal adult suffrage in The Bahamas. All men could vote equally in The Bahamas in 1958. In 1807 legislation passed in the house of assembly giving free persons of color the right to vote.
1975 1975 1975 Bahrain Universal suffrage in 1973, although parliament was suspended and dissolved in 1975 for approximately 30 years. Non-Sunni Muslims cannot vote.
1948 1893 1948 1893 Belgium Universal census suffrage for all men aged 25 and above since 1893. Depending on education and amount of taxes paid, males could cast between 1 and 3 votes. Widows were also allowed to vote but lost their voting rights after remarrying. Universal single suffrage for males since 1918. Universal suffrage for women was finally introduced in 1948.
2008 2008 2008 2008 Bhutan
1952 1938 1952 1952 Bolivia Universal suffrage granted by decree of 1952; first elections in 1956; women's suffrage coincided with abolition of literacy requirements.
1985 1891 1932 1891 Brazil Male suffrage from Brazilian Constitution of 1891 excluding beggars, women, illiterates, lowest ranking soldiers and members of monastic orders. Women from 1932. Suffrage was further expanded to all but illiterate people in 1946. Illiterates remained without the right to vote until 1985.
Brunei No elections.
1945 1945 1945 1945 Bulgaria Universal suffrage including women and men serving in the Army was instituted by the government of the Fatherland front.
1990 1990 1990 1990 Burma/Myanmar Last free elections held in 1990. New elections held in 2015, which elected 75% of legislators, while 25% remain appointed by the military.
1960 1920 1920 1960 Canada In 1920, Canada enacted suffrage for federal elections for male and female citizens, with exceptions for Chinese Canadians and Aboriginal Canadians; for provincial elections, female suffrage was established between 1916 (Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan) and 1940 (Quebec). Chinese Canadians, regardless of gender, were given suffrage in 1947, while Aboriginal Canadians were not allowed to vote until 1960, regardless of gender. Newfoundland which joined Canada in 1949 had universal male suffrage in 1925.
1970 1970 1970 1970 Chile From 1888 suffrage for men of any race over 21 who can read. From 1925 full suffrage for men aged 21 and above and able to read and write. 1934 women get to vote on Municipal Elections. From 1949 universal suffrage for men and women aged 21 and above and able to read and write. From 1970 suffrage for men and women aged 18 and older whether or not they can read.
1954 1936 1954 1936 Colombia Universal male suffrage starting in 1853, restricted in 1886. Electorate defined on the basis of adult franchise and joint electorate.
1918 1896 1918 1896 First Czechoslovak Republic Within Austria, universal suffrage 1896, universal and equal suffrage (removing multiple voting) 1907. After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I, universal suffrage including women.
1915 1849 1915 1849 Denmark The King granted limited voting rights in 1834 but only to property owners and with limited power. First proper voting rights came in 1849 to "men over 30 of good reputation" but in the subsequent years the rules were changed a number of times, and it was not until the change of the constitution in 1915 that all men and women living within the kingdom had influence on all chambers. Danish law does not operate with any notion of "ethnicity", but non-resident citizens are still excluded from voting after two years abroad.
2015 Dominican Republic Jorge Radhamés Zorrilla Ozuna proposed the inclusion of the military vote in the constitutional reform of Dominican Republic, to be effective in the elections of 2016.
1918 1917 1918 1917 Estonia Two tiered elections were held, with 62 representatives from rural communities and towns elected in May–June and July–August, respectively.
1979 1979 1979 1979 European Union Elections to the European Parliament have taken place since 1979.
1906 1906 1906 1906 Finland As an autonomous Grand Principality in the Russian Empire, Finland achieved universal suffrage in 1906, becoming the second country in the world to adopt universal suffrage. The Finnish parliamentary election of 1907 was the first time when women were elected (19 of 200 MPs). After becoming independent in 1917, Finland continued its universal suffrage.
1945 1848 1944 1792 France In 1792, the Convention assembly was elected by all French males 21 and over. Over the subsequent years, France experienced profound political upheaval, with republican, monarchist and bonapartist government governing at various times. Through these changes, suffrage increased and decreased based on the introduction, repeal and reintroduction of various degrees of universal, property and census-based suffrage. Universal male suffrage was given in 1848, with the exception of the military who obtained the right to vote in 1945. This was supplemented in 1944 by full universal suffrage, including women as voters.
1919 1919 1919 1919 Georgia The first democratic elections were held on 14–16 February 1919. Five women were elected in total (for Menshevik party) to take part in national legislature numbering 130MPs. In 1921, Georgia became a part of the nascent Soviet Union.
1919 1871 1919 1919 Germany The German Empire from 1871 until 1918 (and the North German Confederation before it from 1867) had universal male suffrage, one of the more progressive election franchises at the time. After the German Revolution of 1918–19, the Weimar Constitution established universal suffrage in 1919 with a minimum voting age of 20.
1951 1951 1951 1951 Ghana Universal suffrage was granted for the 1951 legislative election. This was the first election to be held in Africa under universal suffrage.
1952 1844 1952 1844 Greece After the Revolution of 3 September 1843, the Greek Constitution of 1844 with the electoral law of 18 March 1844 introduced universal male suffrage with secret ballot. Women were given the right to vote in local elections in 1930 and in parliamentary elections since 1952.
1991 1991 1991 1991 Hong Kong Held its first legislative elections in 1991, elected part of the legislators. Until now Hong Kong can still only elect half of the legislators. All registered voters are eligible to vote.
1918 1918 1918 1867 Hungary After the Central Powers' defeat in World War I.

Somewhat reverted in 1925: women's voting age raised to 30, education and wealth requirements were raised. In rural constituencies open voting was reinstated. The rate of eligible citizens fell to 29%.

1950 1950 1950 1950 India All adult citizens as recognized by the Constitution of India, irrespective of race or gender or religion on the founding of the Republic of India.
1955 1955 1955 1955 Indonesia
1963 1906 1963 1906 Iran Under "Constitutional Revolution". The White Revolution gave women the right to vote in 1963.
1923 1918 1923 1791 Ireland The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 removed the voting ban from Catholic men in the Kingdom of Ireland. All adult men in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland were enfranchised by the Representation of the People Act 1918. This Act granted women over 30 the right to vote in national elections, but about 60% of women (those under 30 or not meeting property qualifications) were excluded until the Electoral Act 1923 in the Irish Free State changed previous British law to enfranchise women equally with men in 1923.
1948 1948 1948 1948 Israel Universal suffrage since the founding of the State of Israel.
1945 1912 1945 1912 Italy 1912, introduction of the first universal male suffrage, extended to all citizens aged 30 and older, with no restrictions. It was applied in the elections of 1913. In 1918 the electorate was expanded with all male citizens aged 21 and older or who had served in the army. Universal adult suffrage, including women, introduced in 1945, and applied for the first time in the referendum of 1946. Suffrage for men and women aged 18 granted in 1975.
1944 1944 1944 1944 Jamaica Universal adult suffrage introduced.
1947 1925 1947 1925 Japan Universal adult male suffrage for those over 25 was introduced in 1925. Universal adult suffrage for both sexes over 20 introduced in 1946, ratified by the new Constitution which adopted on 3 May 1947. The Voting age was reduced to 18 in 2016.
2005 1962 2005 1962 Kuwait Universal adult male suffrage since 1962, for citizens who are 21 or older, with the exception of those who, at the time of elections, serve in the armed forces. As of 2005, women who satisfy the age and citizenship requirements are allowed to vote.
1919 1919 1919 1919 Latvia Universal suffrage introduced in Law of elections to the Constituent assembly.
1943 1943 1943 1943 Lebanon Universal suffrage for all adult males and females since the independence of Lebanon (The Chamber of Deputies is shared equally between Christians and Muslims, rather than elected by universal suffrage that would have provided a Muslim majority).
1951 1946 1946 Liberia Liberia denies political rights for non-Black people. See: Liberian nationality law
1984 1984 1984 1984 Liechtenstein
1922 1922 1922 1922 Lithuania
1919 1919 1919 1919 Luxembourg Universal voting rights introduced in May 1919, first applied in a referendum on 28 September, then the parliamentarian elections on 26 October 1919.
1957 1956 1957 1956 Malaysia
1947 1947 1947 1947 Malta The 1947 election was the first election without property qualifications for voters, and women were also allowed to vote for the first time.
1959 1948 1959 1948 Mauritius The 1959 election was the first election when women were also allowed to vote for the first time. The 1948 Mauritian general election was the first instance when any adult who could write their names in any of the island's languages was allowed to vote, without property qualifications for voters.
1953 1917 1953 1917 Mexico Universal suffrage given to men in 1917 after the Mexican Revolution; suffrage given to women in municipal elections in 1947 and national elections in 1953. In 1996, Mexicans living in the United States were given the right to vote in Mexican elections.
1919 1917 1919 1917 Netherlands From 1917 full suffrage for men aged 23 and above. From 1919 universal suffrage for men and women aged 23. From 1971 suffrage for men and women aged 18 and older.
1893 1879 1893 1879 New Zealand With the extension of voting rights to women in 1893, the self-governing British colony became one of the first permanently constituted jurisdictions in the world to grant universal adult suffrage, suffrage previously having been universal for Māori men over 21 from 1867, and for white men from 1879. Plural voting (impacting men) was abolished in 1889. Some prison inmates are denied the right to vote.
1913 1898 1913 1851 Norway Full male suffrage in 1898, with women included in 1913. Tax-paying Sami men were granted suffrage in a revision of the constitution in 1821. The so-called Jew clause in the Constitution of 1814 explicitly banned Jews from entering and residing in the kingdom. It was repealed in 1851, paving the way for Jews to live, pay taxes and vote in Norway.
1956 1951 1956 1951 Pakistan In 1956, women were granted the right to vote in national elections. Pakistan adopted universal adult suffrage for provisional assembly elections soon after it became independent in 1947. The first direct elections held in the country after independence were for the provincial Assembly of the Punjab from 10 to 20 March 1951.
1979 1979 1979 1979 Peru Suffrage was granted for women in 1955 but suffrage for the illiterate was only granted with the 1979 Constitution.
1946 1935 1937 1946 Philippines Males who were over 25 years old and could speak English or Spanish, with property and tax restrictions, were previously allowed to vote as early as 1907; universal male suffrage became a constitutional right in 1935. Women's suffrage was approved in a plebiscite in 1937.
1918 1918 1918 1918 Poland Prior to the Partition of Poland in 1795, only nobility (men) were allowed to take part in political life. The first parliamentary elections were held on 26 January 1919 (1919 Polish legislative election), according to the decree introducing universal suffrage, signed by Józef Piłsudski on 28 November 1918, immediately after restoring independent Polish state. Universal suffrage for men and women over 21.
1974 1974 1974 1974 Portugal By 1878, 72% of the male adult population had access to vote; this number was restricted by the policies of the last years of the monarchy and first years of the republic (transition in 1910 with the 5 October 1910 revolution), being reinstalled only in the 1920s. Restricted female suffrage was firstly allowed in 1931; it was further extended in 1933, 1946, and finally 1968. Due to the 1933–74 dictatorship of Estado Novo, universal suffrage was only fully attained after the 1974 Carnation revolution.
2013 Qatar Municipal elections are open for active and passive participation for men and women since 1999.
1948 1918 1948 1918 Romania The universal suffrage for men established by Royal Decree in November 1918, the first elections using universal suffrage took place in November 1919. Literate women were given the right to vote in the local elections in 1929 and the electoral law of 1939 extended the active voting rights to all literate citizens which were 30 years old or older. The universal suffrage was granted by the 1948 Constitution of Romania.
1917 1917 1917 1917 Russia Universal suffrage established by Declaration of the Provisional Government of 15 March 1917 and Statute on Elections of the Constituent Assembly of 2 August 1917.
1991 1990 1991 1990 Samoa
2015 2005 2015 2005 Saudi Arabia Municipal elections only
1945 1888 1945 1888 Serbia Suffrage for male voters who paid taxes was granted in the Constitution of 1869, and in the Constitution of 1888 the right to vote was given to all males of age 21. Women were allowed to vote with the Communist constitution of Yugoslavia.
1994 1910 1931 1994 South Africa White women's suffrage granted in 1930 and suffrage for all white adults regardless of property in 1931. Universal suffrage not regarding race or colour of skin; Blacks and Coloureds were denied the right to vote before and during the apartheid era (1948–1994).
1948 1948 1948 1948 South Korea Universal suffrage since the founding of the Republic of Korea. However, voting was initially limited to landowners and taxpayers in the larger towns, elders voting for everyone at the village level.
1977 1812 1977 1869 Spain The Constitution of 1812 enfranchised all Spanish men of Iberian or indigenous American descent in both hemispheres irrespective of property, but explicitly excluded Afrodescendent men.

Extended to all men from 1869 to 1878 (First Spanish Republic and three first years of Bourbon Restoration) and from 1890 to the end of the Second Spanish Republic (1931–36). On 19 November 1933 women were granted the right to vote. Revoked during Franco era (1939–75) and recovered since 1977 in the new Spanish Constitution.

1931 1931 1931 1931 Sri Lanka Universal suffrage for all irrespective of race, ethnicity, language, or gender. Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia.
1945 1909 1919 1873 Sweden During the years 1718–72 burgher men and women of age and with income were able to elect members of parliament, but women's suffrage was abolished in 1772. Jews were given the right to vote in 1838, but not given the right to stand for election until 1870. Catholics were given the right to vote in 1873, but not given the right to be eligible as cabinet minister until 1951. Full male suffrage 1909 for those aged 25 and above, but only to one of two equally weighed houses of parliament. Universal suffrage for men and women aged 23 enacted in 1919, and the first election took place in 1921. Until 1924 men who refused to do military service were excepted from universal suffrage. Until 1937 courts were able to punish crimes by revoking a convict's right to vote. Until 1945 persons living on benefits were excepted from universal suffrage. Voting age changed to 21 in 1945, to 20 in 1965, to 19 in 1969 and to 18 in 1975.
1971 1848 1971 1866 Switzerland At the formation of the federal state in 1848, Switzerland introduced universal male suffrage. Jews did not have the same political rights as Christian citizens until 1866. Women's suffrage was introduced, by (male) referendum, on the federal level in 1971. On the level of the constituent states of the Old Swiss Confederacy, universal male suffrage is first attested in Uri in 1231, in Schwyz in 1294 and in Unterwalden in 1309 (Landsgemeinde). The first canton to introduce women‘s suffrage was Vaud in 1959, the last canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden, had to do so by federal court order in 1990.
1992 1992 1992 1992 Taiwan Universal suffrage under the Constitution of the Republic of China. First National Assembly (disbanded 2005) elections held in 1947, first multi-party legislative elections held in 1992. First presidential election held in 1996.
1933 1933 1933 1933 Thailand Universal suffrage for all since the first general election in 1933.
1959 1957 Tunisia Universal suffrage for all since the first post-independence constitution.
1934 1876 1934 1876 Turkey
2006 2006 2006 United Arab Emirates Limited suffrage for both men and women.
1928 1918 1928 1791 United Kingdom The removal of voting rights based on religion occurred with the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 in the Kingdom of Great Britain & the Kingdom of Ireland (being what most of what we now call the United Kingdom was called back then). The right to vote has never since been based on race or religion. All adult men in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland were enfranchised by the Representation of the People Act 1918. This Act granted women over 30 the right to vote in national elections, but about 60% of women (those under 30 or not meeting property qualifications) were excluded until the Equal Franchise Act 1928, when women were granted the vote on the same terms as men in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Representation of the People Act 1948 removed plural voting rights held by about 7% of the electorate. The Representation of the People Act 1969 reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.
1948 1948 1948 1948 United Nations Provision of "universal and equal suffrage" in Universal Declaration of Human Rights [Article 21(3)]
1965 1856 1920 1965 United States
  • In the colonial era, there had been various restrictions on suffrage in what is today the United States. Property restrictions on voting disenfranchised more than half of the white male population in most states.
  • After the American Revolution, the Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. In the early history of the U.S., most states allowed only white male adult property owners to vote (about 6% of the population). Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky were the three states to have full adult suffrage for white males before 1800. New Jersey allowed women's suffrage for landowners until the early 1800s.
  • In the 1820 election, there were 108,359 ballots cast. In the 1840 election, 2,412,694 ballots were cast, an increase that far outstripped natural population growth. Poor voters became a huge part of the electorate. By 1856, after the period of Jacksonian democracy, all states had almost universal white adult male suffrage regardless of property ownership. Tax-paying requirements remained in five states, and two into the 20th century.
  • In 1868, the 14th Amendment altered the way each state is represented in the House of Representatives. It counted all residents for apportionment including former slaves, overriding the three-fifths compromise, and reduced a state's apportionment if it wrongfully denied men aged 21 and above the right to vote. However, this was not enforced in practice. In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted suffrage to all males of any race, skin color, and ethnicity, including former slaves (freedmen), meaning that male African Americans in theory had the right to vote throughout the United States.
  • Starting in 1888, former Confederate states passed Jim Crow laws and amendments to effectively disfranchise black and poor white voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and other restrictions, applied in a discriminatory manner. During this period, the Supreme Court generally upheld state efforts to discriminate against racial minorities; only later in the 20th century were these laws ruled unconstitutional. Black males in the Northern states could vote, but the majority of African Americans lived in the South.
  • Wyoming was the first territory to enfranchise all women in 1869. From then until 1916, all Western states legalized women suffrage, but few Eastern states followed suit. However, in 1920 the 19th Amendment extended the franchise to women in all states.
  • In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act gave suffrage to all Native Americans, nearly two-thirds of whom already had citizenship and the right to vote.
  • In 1943 Chinese immigrants were given the right to citizenship and the right to vote by the Magnuson Act. It allowed Chinese immigration for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and permitted some Chinese immigrants already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens.
  • In 1962–1964, the nationwide "one man, one vote" electoral system was lawfully established mainly through the Warren Court's rulings in Baker v. Carr (1962), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), as well as Wesberry v. Sanders (1964).
  • In 1964–1965, the 24th Amendment, which abolished the use of poll taxes as a requirement for voting in federal elections, was passed. Full enfranchisement was revived in 1965, with the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal enforcement of rights. For state elections, it was not until the Warren Court ruled 6–3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) that all state poll taxes were unconstitutional as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This removed a burden on the poor.
  • In 1971, the 26th Amendment ratified, which granted suffrage for men and women aged 18.
1918 Uruguay With the 1918 Uruguayan Constitution.
1979 1919 1979 Zimbabwe Universal suffrage was introduced in the 1978 Internal Settlement between Ian Smith and Abel Muzorewa. The 1979 Lancaster House constitution agreed to accommodate the nationalists and also affirmed universal suffrage but with a special role for whites. Universal suffrage with no special consideration for race came in 1987. Before 1978, Rhodesia (the name for the region that would become Zimbabwe in 1980) had a merit qualification in order to vote. This was controversial because it excluded the vast majority of native Africans. Though white women were granted the right to vote in 1919.

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