Suffrage is the right to vote. Suffrage has usually been understood as the question of whether a citizen was permitted to vote in an election. The U. S. Constitution originally left the determination of voting qualifications to individual states. Gradually, federal law has extended voting rights to various groups of citizens. Race, color, or previous condition of servitude were eliminated as a basis for voting qualification in 1870. Women gained the right to vote in 1920. That our country has extended suffrage broadly is a source of pride to many people. However, the struggle for suffrage did not end with the relaxing of voting qualifications.
The right to vote has two components. The utility of suffrage is constrained by opportunities to vote. With introduction of ballot initiative—the possibility to vote on issues—the qualification of initiatives becomes an aspect of suffrage. If we cannot propose and vote on an important public policy issue then our suffrage is infringed. While the ballot initiative is available at the state level in about half of the states, it is not available at the federal level. This right is overdue. If you feel passionately about women’s right to vote or the right of diverse races to vote then you ought to feel the same passion about ballot initiatives. Ballot initiatives are a logical consequence of the demand for suffrage and also a necessary expression of our natural right of self-determination.
In brief, suffrage has two necessary components:
- the right to vote
- the right to nominate public policy questions to vote on
2009 Idea developed by Michael Grant
2011 Edited by Joshua Pritikin