Universal suffrage? Voting restrictions and disenfranchisement in Sweden after 1921

People demonstrating.
1a maj-bildsamling, Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek. Malmström

In 2021 Sweden celebrates the 100th anniversary of universal and equal suffrage. At least, this is what is stated in prevailing historiography. But how universal did the voting rights actually become and how did age play a role in limiting suffrage?

This project brings more nuances to that history, by examining the suffrage restrictions after 1921, on both national and municipal levels. The expansion of the franchise has always been combined with efforts to control the effects of an extended democracy. In the case of Sweden, several groups were, formally or practically, excluded from voting also after the introduction of “universal suffrage” – and some still are. Therefore, instead of regarding the reform of 1921 as a definitive democratic breakthrough, the project examines what happened in the following century as a continual but not linear process of democratisation. The project makes a broad empirical study of voting restrictions in legislation and practice, and also contributes to international discussions on the meanings of democracy. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods are used and the analysis is structures by three clusters of research questions, regarding: policy-making and legislation, practices of inclusion and exclusion, functions and results.

Participating researchers: Fia Sundevall, Institutionen för ekonomisk historia och internationella relationer, Stockholms universitet, Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek; Annika Berg, Institutionen för kultur och estetik, Stockholms universitet; Martin Ericsson, Historiska institutionen, Lunds universitet; Bengt Sandin, Tema Barn, Linköpings Universitet och Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek; Mattias Lindgren, Institutionen för ekonomisk historia och internationella relationer, Stockholms universitet; Julia Nordblad, Institutionen för idé- och lärdomshistoria, Uppsala universitet.

The project is funded by The Swedish Research Council 2018-2021.