Theories of Franchise in the Electorate – Essay



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It was claimed that laws and policies of government concerned all people and what touched all should be decided by all. To grant suffrage to some meant the exclusion of others from representation. Unrepresented interests were likely to be neglected by the government.

To safeguard the interests of all elements of population, it was essential that everyone must possess the right to have his opinion counted in the final decision of public affairs.

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The second school was led by Bluntschli, Lecky, John Stuart Mill and Sir Henry Maine. They held that franchise was not an inherent right of a citizen. It was a right which was conferred by the State and it should not be granted to all.

Moreover, franchise was a sacred right which required an informal exercise of judgment in the election of representatives. To extend it to the unenlightened and ignorant masses was to invite dark days for democracy.

It was, accordingly, suggested that all citizens of the State should not possess the right to vote. This school of thought was against the idea of universal suffrage.

It is, however, now admitted that by universal suffrage its advocates meant universal adult suffrage. Minors had always been excluded from the right to vote. So were the lunatics and the aliens. Conviction for a crime has been regarded as a reasonable cause for disqualification.

The modern view in regard to the nature of suffrage is that it is an office or function which is conferred by the State upon only such persons as are believed to be most capable of exercising it for the public good and not a natural right which belongs without distinction to all citizens of the State.

But what ought to be the qualifications of persons believed to be most capable of exercising their vote for public good? Every State has its own electoral laws.

Adult suffrage is the maxim of democracy, but at present electorates includes a fractional part of the population, reaching as high as three-fifths in the more liberal States; and in several States, such as New Zealand, where adult suffrage is permitted, almost one-half of the population are voters. India, too, stands in this category.

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