Universal Adult Franchise and Methods of Representation

Universal adult franchise is the foundation of a representative democracy. It means that each man or woman after attaining a prescribed age is entitled to vote in the elections without any discrimination on grounds of caste, creed, religion, language or sex.

The citizens exercise their right to vote to choose their representatives in elections. Elections are, in fact, the bedrock of democracy and express the sovereign will of the people through the exercise of their free and equal vote.

Universal Adult Franchise: Its Evolution

Most of the western countries introduced adult franchise only in the wake of the First World War to make the world safe for democracy.

The defeated Germany incorporated the principle of universal adult franchise in 1919. It took nine more years for Great Britain to Democracy at Work extend franchise to women in 1928.

It was decided that while all adult men 21 years of age and above would have the right to vote women only above the age of 30 years could possess the right to vote. This discrimination was removed only in 1928.

Qualifications prescribed for a voter in India

  1. must be a citizen of India.
  2. must have attained 18 years of age.
  3. must not be of unsound mind.
  4. must not have been declared bankrupt by a competent court.

Methods of Representation

1) Territorial Representation

The most popular method, in this system all eligible voters living in a specified area vote to elect their representative.

2) Functional Representation

Representatives are elected by various professional and functional groups like industrial workers, trading functionaries, medical practitioners, lawyers, etc.


A body of voters who elect a representative is known as constituency.

1) Single Member Constituency - When only one member is elected from a constituency.

2) Multi-Member Constituency - This system is also known as the ‘General Ticket system’. When more than one candidate is elected from a constituency, it is called a multi-member constituency.

Simple Majority System

In case of a single-member constituency, the person or the candidate getting the highest number of votes is declared elected.

Proportional Representation System

An electoral device to ensure representation of all sections of the people in proportion to their voting strength.

Methods to secure proportional representation:

1) Single transferable Vote System - It is also called the Hare system or the Andrae Scheme. According to this system each voter can cast only one vote which can be transferred to other candidates.

2) List System - In this method the large multimember constituencies are formed, and many candidates are elected from each constituency.

Other Minority Representation System

(1) Cumulative Vote System: According to this system a voter has as many votes as the number of seats in the constituency.

2) Limited Vote Plan: This system is adopted in a multi-member constituency from where a minimum of 3 candidates are to be elected.