The right to vote is an important issue in the history of democracy, and its evolution has been influenced by a number of social, political and cultural factors. In Europe, the right to vote has historically been reserved only for land-owning white males, but the past two centuries have seen a gradual broadening of the voting base to include all adults.
The evolution of voting rights
In the 1960s and 1970s, many European countries extended the right to vote to young people under the age of 21, who until then had been excluded from voting. During the 1990s and 2000s, many European countries extended the right to vote to non-EU foreign residents in some local elections.
In many countries outside Europe, the right to vote was extended only after the end of imperialism and colonialism. For example, in South Africa, universal voting rights were granted only in 1994, after the end of apartheid. In many former French and British colonies in Africa, voting rights were granted only after independence.
Currently, the right to vote is considered a fundamental part of democracy, and many countries continue to broaden the electoral base. In some European countries, such as Germany, the right to vote has been extended to young people under the age of 18. Other countries are considering extending the right to vote to non-citizen foreign residents in national elections.
In general, the evolution of voting rights in European and non-European countries has been characterized by a gradual broadening of the voting base to all adults, regardless of gender, race or land ownership. However, there are still many challenges ahead to ensure full and complete exercise of the right to vote for all citizens, such as combating misinformation, corruption, and discrimination.
Electronic and online voting as a tool to extend the right to vote
Many countries are also working to expand the right to vote beyond traditional elections by introducing online voting to make it easier for people who live far from polling stations or have difficulty getting to the polls on Election Day to exercise their right to vote.
Electronic and online voting can help extend participation in elections by going beyond the limitations of in-person voting at polling stations. With electronic voting, voters can conveniently express their preferences online through a secure and verifiable digital voting system. This could enable more people to vote, including voters who are abroad, those with reduced mobility or care commitments that keep them away from polling stations for long periods.
For electronic voting to truly expand voter participation, however, it is necessary to ensure that the system is secure, transparent, fair, and inclusive. It is critical that each electronic vote can be verified and traced back to a single voter to prevent fraud. Electronic voting solutions must also be easy to use, accessible to all voters, and must not compromise the secrecy of voting.
If implemented properly, electronic voting can be a powerful tool to bring voters closer to democratic institutions and combat electoral abstentionism. By extending the right to vote to new groups in society, e-voting can strengthen the legitimacy of political representation and citizens' confidence in their democracies. In this way, democracies can become more inclusive, participatory and resilient in the long run.
In conclusion, electronic and online voting represents an opportunity to breathe new life into representative democracies and help them adapt to changes in modern society. With proper and secure implementations, it can help involve more people in democratic decision-making processes and realize one of the fundamental principles of democracy: fair and extensive participation.