What Is Universal Suffrage ?

Universal suffrage is the extension of voting rights to all citizens without restrictions based on sex, race, religious belief, wealth or social status. Some countries, however, do not allow insane persons, convicted criminals, and people who commit electoral offenses to vote. The first country to grant universal suffrage rights was New Zealand in 1893. Prior to that, the first country to grant universal male suffrage was France, in 1792.

Nowadays, most modern governments have granted universal voting rights to their citizens, although minimum age requirements vary slightly from 18 to 25. Prior to the establishment of universal suffrage rights, countries had other requirements for voting. England, for instance, required men to have property or a certain level of income to qualify for voting. In South Africa and the Old South, only white people were allowed to vote. In Asia, countries required people to be able to read and write in order to be able to vote. These requirements gradually began to disappear, and by the early 20th century, most modern democracies had extended voting rights to all males and females. As of 2014, there are still countries in the world that have not yet granted universal voting rights to all citizens.