By Whitney Ransom McGowan, WorldVitalRecords.com
Election time is coming up on November 4 in the United States. Although voting may seem commonplace to you, what was voting like for your ancestors? Did they vote? How did they vote? Did any of your ancestors run for office? Lets take a look at voting throughout a variety of countries and centuries.
Did you know that in Ancient Greece individuals had a negative election? This meant that male landowners were asked to vote for the individual they most wanted to exile for ten years. If any politician received more than 6,000 of these votes, the one with the largest number was actually exiled! If there wasn’t a politician who received 6,000 votes, then all of the politicians were safe.
In the late 1860s, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were passed, extending voting rights to former slaves. Although these amendments were passed, many blacks could not actually vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1960.
If your ancestors lived up until the mid-1800s, voting was done quite differently. First, it was not secret. Voters would be sworn in and voice their opinions. The secret ballot box was useful because it was said to increase voter participation; however, there were some problems with fraud because there was no direct verification that what the voter intended to vote was actually followed.
If your ancestors were born in 1971, a new amendment was passed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. At this time the Vietnam War was in process. This was a time when 18-year-olds were drafted to the war and were unable to vote.
How was voting for your female ancestors? In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed in the United States, giving women the right to vote. Women born in New Zealand could vote in 1893. Women born in Australia could vote in 1902. Female citizens living in Switzerland received the right to vote in the 1970s. Women could vote in Finland in 1906, in Norway in 1913, in the Soviet Union in 1917, in Poland in 1918, in Germany and Sweden in 1919, and in Ireland in 1922.
Today the voting age in many countries throughout the world is age 18 (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (note this is not a comprehensive list). However, in some countries the ages are different for voting. For example, if you are 15 you can vote in Iran. If you are 16 years of age, you are eligible for voting in Brazil. You can also vote in Japan at age 20.
Have you ever tried to learn more about voting and your ancestors at WorldVitalRecords.com? A keyword search for the word “voting” at WorldVitalRecords.com yields 184,581 matches in 2,982 indexes and 797,649 matches in 5,474 indexes for the keyword “vote.” Check out WorldVitalRecords.com today and see what voting was like for your ancestors.