Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, distinct from other rights to vote, is the right to vote gained through the democratic process. In English, suffrage and its synonyms are sometimes also used to mean the right to run for office (to be a candidate), but there are no established qualifying terms to distinguish between these different meanings of the term(s). The right to run for office is sometimes called (candidate) eligibility, and the combination of both rights is sometimes called full suffrage. In many other languages, the right to vote is called the active right to vote and the right to be voted for (to run for office) is called the passive right to vote. In English, these are sometimes called active suffrage and passive suffrage.
Suffrage is often conceived in terms of elections for representatives; however, suffrage applies equally to initiative and referendum. Suffrage describes not only the legal right to vote, but also the practical question of whether a question will be put to a vote. The utility of suffrage is reduced when important questions are decided unilaterally by elected or non-elected representatives.
In most democracies, eligible voters can vote in elections of representatives. Voting on issues by initiative may be available in some jurisdictions but not others. For example, Switzerland permits initiatives at all levels of government whereas the United States does not offer initiatives at the federal level or in many states. That new constitutions must be approved by referendum is considered natural law.
Citizens become eligible to vote after reaching the voting age, which is typically 18 years as of 2012. Most democracies no longer extend different rights to vote on the basis of sex or race. Resident aliens can vote in some countries and in others exceptions are made for citizens of countries with which they have close links (e.g. some members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the members of the European Union).
Famous quotes containing the word suffrage:
“Having a thirteen-year-old in the family is like having a general-admission ticket to the movies, radio and TV. You get to understand that the glittering new arts of our civilization are directed to the teen-agers, and by their suffrage they stand or fall.”
—Max Lerner (b. 1902)
“... a large portion of those who demand woman suffrage are persons who have not been trained to reason, and are chiefly guided by their generous sensibilities.”
—Catherine E. Beecher (18001878)
“An illustrious individual remarks that Mrs. [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton is the salt, Anna Dickinson the pepper, and Miss [Susan B.] Anthony the vinegar of the Female Suffrage movement. The very elements get the white male into a nice pickle.”
—Anonymous, U.S. womens magazine contributor. The Revolution (August 19, 1869)