Development Process of Franchise

The primitive tribal theory-in the city states right to vote was an attribute of membership of the state. The feudal theory gives the right of vote to the owners of the land only.

The ethical theory gave the right of vote to all for the development of individual personality. Compulsory voting system: There is danger of being purchased and possibility of fear psychosis in the people. Two school of thought have been prominent in the development of franchise.

Universal franchise

  • During the 18th century, when the doctrine of natural rights equality of men and popular sovereignty were favorite themes of every political thinker, the demand was for universal franchise.
  • It was held that sovereignty ultimately resided in the people and it was the right of every citizen to vote and participate in the determination of the policy of government.
  • Right to vote only could provide equality of men and political equality.
  • Universal suffrage means universal adult suffrage.
  • In this system also it does not allow right of voting to minors, to persons of unsound mind or to aliens and criminals in confinements idiots and lunatics are also excluded.
  • To grant suffrage to some meant the exclusion of others from representation. Unrepresented interest were likely to be neglected by the government.

Limited Suffrage

The second school was led by Bluntschli, Lecky, J.S. Mill, Sir Henry Maine. They held the view that franchise was not an inherent rights of a citizen. It was a right conferred and limited by the state and it should not be granted to all. All citizens of the state should not possess the right to vote. This school of thought was against the idea of universal suffrage.

According to Bluntschli, “To vest the power of choosing those, who are to rule the state in the hands of incapable and unworthy classes would mean state suicide.

In the extension of suffrage to the masses, Lecky saw the danger government by the ignorant masses and therefore advocated restricted franchise based on education and property. His question is whether the world should be governed by its ignorance or by its intelligence?

J.S. Mill was an ardent supporter of proper education and property qualifications of citizens for the exercise of right to vote. He emphasized that those virtues can make man (human being) a reasonable.

Political right if limited by property qualifications is no right at all. It is tantamount (equal) to disfranchise and disqualifying a vast majority of the people.

As well, women were not given the right of vote till very recently, in US from 1920, in UK 1918, still it was limited and in 1928 full voting right was given. If women are not given the opportunity to express their consent, it is a negation of democracy. Both male and female are the people of the state. The old prejudices slowly have been disappeared and womanhood at par (equal) with man in the political life and social life.

Earlier opposition to adult suffrage including woman suffrage now has been replaced by the theme that right to vote is as a sign of political maturity, positive democracy, right to equality and liberty, etc. Universal adult franchise has now been the indispensable modern phenomenon of/for democracy.

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