Right/Voting Rights and Suffrage/Limitations - Restrictions

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Voting Rights and Suffrage

Is this right subject to specific limitations in event of emergency (war, brief natural disaster [weather, earthquake], long-run natural disaster [volcano, fire, disease])? Can such limitations be defined in advance with reference to the disaster in question? + create

Under American jurisprudence, what permissible exceptions exist? + create

What are the typical exceptions or limitations placed on this right? 🖉 edit

Limitations are typically placed on the right to vote on the basis of citizenship, competence, or punishment. Citizenship is usually required in order to vote in any country, and likewise language can be a factor. In terms of competence, restrictions on the right to vote are often determined by age and mental health. Certain countries disenfranchise people with mental disabilities, suggesting that they are not competent to vote, and some go so far as to disallow those under guardianship to vote. Governments also commonly restrict the right to vote in cases where a citizen is imprisoned or has committed a felony. These types of restrictions are usually outlined in a country's constitution (Kirshner).

As seen in the United States, citizens above the age of 18 are eligible to vote. However, in certain states, some people with felony convictions are ineligible to vote. In some states, a felon is ineligible to vote indefinitely, and in other states, the felon may eventually regain the right (USAGov). There is debate surrounding whether or not convicted criminals should be disenfranchised, and therefore, it is typically decided according to the state legislature. Those who do not think that criminals should lose their right to vote often suggest that disenfranchisement could cause racial imbalances because ethnic minorities are more likely than others to be incarcerated in the United States. It is also argued that not being able to vote makes it more difficult to rejoin and participate in society following punishment. In opposition, those who think that criminals should lose their right to vote suggest that criminals have proven to have poor judgement and that criminal punishment must entail a loss of societal privileges and freedom (Goldring, K., 2020).

Furthermore, following the 2010 U.S. election, certain mechanisms have been used in states that make it more difficult for citizens to vote. These mechanisms include strict photo ID requirements, cutting back on early voting, making it more difficult to register to vote, and attempting to restrict absentee voting (Brennan Center for Justice). Introducing bills and laws that make voting more difficult stem from a fear of election fraud, with proponents of such measures suggesting they are necessary to protect the integrity of U.S. elections. These measures are disproportionately affecting African American voters (Amy Gardner, K. R., 2021).

Historically, women have also been denied the right to vote. For instance, in India women were first granted the right to vote in 1935, however, their right to vote was contingent on them being married to a male voter or possessing certain literary skills. Many countries such as Iceland also originally set the minimum voting age to be higher for women than men (Schaeffer, K, 2021). Women in Pakistan did not gain the right to vote until 1947, and women in China were unable to vote until 1949, following a civil war. It was not until the end of the 1960s that most of Africa enfranchised women, and many European countries did not enfranchise women until the 1970s. Many Middle Eastern countries denied women suffrage until the 21st century, with women voting for the first time in Saudi Arabia in 2015. Women continue to face barriers to voting in Middle Eastern countries.

Additionally, there can be barriers to voting in countries following conflict. If many people are displaced because of the conflict, voter registration can be especially difficult. Countries may no longer have their voting lists or many displaced people may no longer be able to locate their personal documents, including their proof of citizenship. Women are typically more likely to be displaced during a conflict, and it is common for them to be hesitant to register to vote following a conflict for they fear losing access to assistance for them and their family. Likewise, following conflict, citizens may fear intimidation from their government and therefore not register to vote (United Nations).


Amy Gardner, K. R. (2021, March 11). How GOP-backed voting measures could create hurdles for tens of millions of voters. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/voting-restrictions-republicans-states/

Aspinall, G. (2021, March 8). Here Are The Countries Where It's Still Really Difficult For Women To Vote. Grazia. https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/countries-where-women-can-t-vote/.

Goldring, K. (2020, February 24). Should convicted criminals have the right to vote? theperspective.com/. https://www.theperspective.com/debates/politics/convicted-criminals-right-vote/.

Kirshner, A. (n.d.). The International Status of the Right to Vote. Democracy Coalition Project. New Voting Restrictions in America. Brennan Center for Justice. (n.d.). https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/new-voting-restrictions-america.

Schaeffer, K. (2021, April 28). Key facts about women's suffrage around the world, a century after U.S. ratified 19th Amendment. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/05/key-facts-about-womens-suffrage-around-the -world-a-century-after-u-s-ratified-19th-amendment/.

United Nations. (n.d.). Chapter 4. United Nations. https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/publication/Chapter4.htm.

Who Can and Can't Vote in U.S. Elections. USAGov. (n.d.). https://www.usa.gov/who-can-vote.

Under international human rights laws, what permissible exceptions (often called derogations) exist? + create

Have political theorists or philosophers discussed the permissibility of exceptions to this right? + create

Should this right be limited when limiting it would jeopardize democratic norms? + create

Is this right often perceived as threatening to government authorities? + create

Is this right often curtailed by government authorities for reasons other than those which are generally viewed as permissible? + create

Is this right at times curtailed by private actors? + create