“Our democracy does not involve only inclusion: exclusion is also a factor. The right to vote has always been subject to limitations. And it remains so today”, says Jonathan Josefsson, assistant professor in the Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University.
Who has the right to vote is linked to the idea of who is “appropriate” in different periods. Before women gained the right to vote, they were considered to be irrational, incompetent and too poorly educated to take decisions about something as important as politics.
“The arguments for denying women the vote are extremely similar to the arguments used today to explain why children and young people are not allowed to vote”, says Jonathan Josefsson.
Jonathan Josefsson conducts research into the citizenship of children and young people in contemporary democracies. He is a member of the “Universal suffrage? Voting restrictions and disenfranchisement in Sweden after 1921” research project, where, together with colleague Bengt Sandin, he studies the political debate around age and the right to vote in the 20th century. He believes that it is important to celebrate the centenary of women gaining the right to vote. At the same time, he points out that many groups remained for a long time – and some still remain – without the right to vote.
“It’s extremely important to be self-critical at a jubilee. It’s a good opportunity to reflect about one’s assumptions. Who gets to vote today – and who doesn’t? On what grounds? And whose voting rights are limited by various practical and structural factors?”
Young people lost it when women gained it
The fact is that when women gained the right to vote, others lost it, as the consequence of a political agreement. During negotiations about the right to vote for women, it was agreed to raise the voting age for the two chambers of the parliamentary structure at the time. It was raised from 21 to 27 years for elections to the county councils and first chamber. The age for voting in elections to the second chamber had been raised from 21 to 24 years in 1909, and this was adjusted to 23 years in 1921. The age for the right to vote in municipal elections was at the same time raised from 21 to 23 years.