Electoral Qualifications

Electoral Qualifications


the conditions established by the constitution or electoral laws of a country that a citizen of the country must meet in order to obtain the right to participate in elections.

Electoral qualifications were introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries by the bourgeoisie, which had recently come to power, in order to prevent the toiling masses from voting in elections to representative bodies or from taking part in the work of the bodies. The most common electoral qualifications were the property qualification, which required that citizens possess a certain amount of property in order to receive the franchise; the educational qualification, which limited the electorate to that portion of the citizenry with a level of education practically inaccessible to the majority of the toiling masses at that time; and the literacy qualification, which was another form of the preceding restriction. Two other qualifications were directed against people who had to migrate in search of work; these were the residence qualification, which required a more or less prolonged residence in the given country or city, and the citizenship qualification, which granted the franchise only to persons who had been citizens of the particular state for a specific amount of time.

For many years the law denied suffrage to women. For example, women in France were not enfranchised until the second half of the 1940’s, and Swiss women did not receive the right to vote until the 1970’s. Until the 1960’s and 1970’s many bourgeois states retained the requirement that citizens reach the age of 20 or 21 before obtaining the franchise; this restriction prevented young people from voting. In addition to requirements based on objective standards, there were subjective moral restrictions, such as the requirement of enjoying a good reputation. This qualification gave broad scope for denying people the right to vote.

The class struggle of the toiling masses under the leadership of the working class led to the introduction of universal suffrage in modern bourgeois states. Electoral qualifications have been abolished; however, various legislative barriers to voting remain. In the USA, for example, a residence requirement has been retained for federal elections; moreover, restrictions on participation in elections exist in the legislation of the individual states. France has a qualification requiring six months’ residence in a particular place before one is allowed to vote. The harsh racial qualifications of the Republic of South Africa disallow black Africans from voting. Although universal suffrage has been proclaimed, age qualifications apply to those running for office. In addition, the law requires that candidates for office make electoral deposits and that candidates for high governmental positions be native citizens and meet religious qualifications.

In the socialist states there are no electoral qualifications, except the age requirement, which as a rule is 18 years. In the Soviet state, members of the former exploiting classes were denied the right to vote in the first few years of Soviet power. Similar action was taken in Rumania and Vietnam in the first years of socialist rule. In the USSR all citizens who have attained the age of 18 have the right to vote and to be elected, except those persons who have been declared legally insane. Citizens who have attained the age of 21 are eligible for election to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.