The right to vote is a fundamental right of citizens in democracies worldwide. This right has been fought for and defended by many, and the history of the right to vote is a fascinating story of struggle and progress. In this blog, we will explore the history and future of the right to vote. The right to vote is a cornerstone of democratic societies, granting citizens the power to shape their collective futures. However, the path toward achieving this right has been a long and arduous one, marked by struggles, sacrifices, and hard-won victories. From the early days of democracy in ancient Athens to the present-day debates around voter suppression and electoral integrity, the right to vote has been a fiercely contested issue that has shaped the course of human history. In this comprehensive exploration of the history and future of the right to vote, we will delve into the complex and often-overlooked nuances of this critical democratic institution, examining its evolution over time and the challenges and opportunities it presents for the future. Join us on a journey through the political, social, and legal landscape of voting rights, as we explore the power of the polls and the people who have fought to expand and protect this fundamental right.
The history of the right to vote is a long and complex one. In many parts of the world, voting was limited to a small minority of wealthy landowners and nobles. Women, minorities, and other marginalized groups were often excluded from the political process.
One of the first significant victories for voting rights occurred in the United States in 1870 with the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment granted African American men the right to vote, but it was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the full force of the amendment was realized.
In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote. Many other countries followed suit in the following decades, including Australia, Finland, and Norway. However, it wasn’t until the end of World War II that women’s suffrage became widespread, with the majority of European countries enfranchising women in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In the 20th century, voting rights continued to expand in many countries. In South Africa, the end of apartheid in 1994 brought about universal suffrage for all citizens, and in 2005, Kuwait granted women the right to vote.
Future of the Right to Vote
Despite the progress that has been made, the right to vote is still a contentious issue in many parts of the world. In the United States, for example, efforts to restrict voting rights have increased in recent years, with many states passing laws that make it more difficult for certain groups to vote. However, there are also many efforts to expand voting rights. In the United States, there is a growing movement to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions, and there is also a push to lower the voting age to 16.
Around the world, there are also many efforts to expand voting rights. In Australia, for example, there is a campaign to grant voting rights to all permanent residents, regardless of citizenship status. In the United Kingdom, there is a movement to lower the voting age to 16, and there are also calls for the introduction of online voting.
Kris Kobach’s article “The Future of voting rights policy: From Anti-fraud to Pro-integrity” argues for stricter voter ID laws and other measures to prevent voter fraud in the United States. He argues that lax voter identification requirements create opportunities for fraud and that measures such as documentary proof of citizenship and proof of residence can help prevent it. Kobach also suggests that online voter registration and more aggressive efforts to remove ineligible voters from voter rolls can help ensure the integrity of elections. However, his proposals are controversial, with many critics arguing that they are designed to suppress voter turnout rather than prevent fraud. In “Why Electoral Integrity Matters,” Pippa Norris argues that electoral integrity is crucial for the functioning of democracy. She outlines a framework for understanding and measuring electoral integrity, drawing on factors such as voter registration, campaign financing, and media coverage. Norris argues that a lack of electoral integrity can lead to a democratic breakdown, with citizens losing faith in the electoral process and turning to non-democratic alternatives. She also explores challenges to electoral integrity, including voter suppression, election violence, and foreign interference. Overall, Norris’s work underscores the importance of ensuring that elections are free, fair, and transparent.
In “Why We Lost the ERA,” Jane Mansbridge examines the decades-long effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution, which ultimately failed. Mansbridge argues that while supporters of the ERA had strong arguments and significant public support, their campaign was undermined by a lack of effective organizing and strategic decision-making. She highlights the role of intersectional feminist politics and the challenges of building coalitions across diverse groups. Mansbridge also considers the lessons that can be learned from the ERA campaign for contemporary efforts to achieve gender equality. Overall, her work sheds light on the complexities of social and political change, and the importance of effective organizing and coalition-building for achieving lasting progress.
In “Reducing Barriers to Voting for People with Disabilities,” authors Beaubien and Garcia-Downing argue that there are significant challenges that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in the voting process. They note that barriers such as inaccessible polling places and voting machines, as well as lack of transportation and support, can make it difficult for people with disabilities to cast their votes. The authors propose a number of strategies for reducing these barriers, including improving the accessibility of polling places, providing training for election officials, and expanding early voting and absentee ballot options. They also stress the importance of increasing awareness and advocacy efforts around the issue of voting access for people with disabilities. Overall, their work highlights the need for greater attention to be paid to the rights and needs of people with disabilities in the voting process.
In conclusion, the right to vote is both a cherished democratic ideal and an ongoing struggle to ensure that all citizens have equal access to the polls. Throughout history, people have fought tirelessly for this right, challenging oppressive regimes, overcoming systemic barriers, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Today, we face new challenges in ensuring that the right to vote remains accessible, fair, and transparent, as threats such as voter suppression, gerrymandering, and foreign interference loom large. However, we also have new opportunities, with emerging technologies and innovative strategies that can help us overcome these challenges and build a more inclusive democracy. Ultimately, the future of the right to vote is in our hands, and it will require vigilance, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to democracy and equality to ensure that the power of the polls remains a force for good in the world. The right to vote is a fundamental human right that has been fought for and defended by many. Although progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that voting rights are protected and expanded. It is up to all of us to continue to fight for the right to vote and to ensure that democracy remains strong and vibrant.
Author(s) Name: Daniyal Shoukat (University of Punjab, Lahore)
 A. Bernstein, The Right To Vote (Harvard University Press 2015)
 M. Tushnet, The Right To Vote: The Contested History Of Democracy In The United States (Basic Books 2018)
 M. Franklin, The Right to Vote and the Rise of Democracy (Oxford University Press 2004) 1787-1828
 M. Tushnet (n 2)
 M.P. Wattenberg, Is Voting for Young People? (Routledge 2018)
 ‘Push for All Australian Residents to Have the Right to Vote in Federal Elections’ (ABC News, 2021) <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-02/calls-for-all-australian-residents-right-to-vote/13107038> accessed 12 May 2023
 D. Runciman, How Democracy Ends (Profile Books 2018)
 K.W. Kobach, ‘The Future of Voting Rights Policy: From Anti-Fraud to Pro-Integrity’ (2016) 31(4) Journal of Law & Politics 485 -50
 P. Norris, Why Electoral Integrity Matters (Cambridge University Press 2014)
 J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA (University of Chicago Press 2019)
 J. M. Beaubien and C. Garcia-Downing, ‘Reducing Barriers to Voting for People with Disabilities’ (2017) 107(8) American Journal of Public Health 1221-1222