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Are/were there any countries where richer people have more active votes than poorer people? For example: someone with an income of $5,000/month would have 5x more votes than a person with an income of $1,000/month.

While I know that there were many countries where members of different estates (ie. nobles vs commoners) had different numbers of votes, I'm looking for a situation where voting power is based directly on wealth, not just on social class.

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    There were many cases in which you had to be wealthy (eg. landowner) to have voting rights, but the Prussian three-class franchise could be what you are looking for. People were divided in classes according to their wealth and each class had the same votes, which means that "a first-class vote had 17.5 times the value of a third-class vote".
    – gabriele
    Jul 17 '15 at 21:16
  • Ancient Rome also had a de facto system where the Patricians got more political power with Senators, where plebs only had plebian tribunes. Jul 17 '15 at 23:32
  • Maybe you are interested in this. This article is about Giovanni di Lorenzo, editor-in-chef of the highbrow weekly Die Zeit, who voted two times as having a dual citizenship in the last EU elections. But his voting behaviour did violate the law. He said, he wasn't aware of it.
    – Sir Sy
    Jul 18 '15 at 12:01
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    In the City of London, corporations get a particular number of votes based on the number of people they employ.
    – gerrit
    Jul 21 '15 at 13:18
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Historically many countries had property or wealth restrictions for voting, which satisfies the letter of the question (one vote is more than zero) but perhaps not its intent.

That said, a number of countries also practiced plural voting, where some electors could vote more than once. For example:

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    In Ireland, it's not all graduates. Just ones from the National University of Ireland (a group of institutions), or Trinity Collage Dublin. e.g. Graduates of the University of Limerick don't get a seanad vote.
    – bobsburner
    Mar 24 '20 at 12:08
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As well as residential and property based votes (which historically meant you would get one vote per constituency you had a house or a business - limited to 1 + 1 in 1918 RPA) the UK also had university seats from 1603 until 1948 giving extra seat elected by graduates - initially - Oxford, Cambridge and later also London, Scotland, and Trinity College Dublin).

There is a fascinating debate (recorded in Hansard) about Liberal MP, John Shawe-Lefevre's Plural Voting Abolition Bill of 1842 that gives some examples:

I know many men among my own friends who have four or five votes for different constituencies. I know men of wealth—men with very large means—who have only one vote, and I know others of smaller means who have two, three, and four and five votes. I have myself five votes for five different constituencies—not that I have sought the votes by purchasing property for that purpose; but they have come to me accidentally on account of holding property in different places. Two are occupation votes, two freehold votes, and one is for a University. But I know many who have a great many more votes than five. I think it was Sir Robert Fowler, a late Member of this House, who used to boast that he had no fewer than thirteen votes in different constituencies, and that he was able at one General Election to record them all. Then there is the well-known case of the Oxford tutor—a man who had eighteen different qualifications, and, at the Election of 1874, voted in respect of these different qualifications eighteen times. But this case pales before one I heard of recently. A clergyman of the Church of England, who has a hobby for acquiring qualifications in different constituencies, has been able to obtain fifty votes in different places, and I was informed that at a certain General ​ Election he contrived to vote in no fewer than forty different places.

Plural Voting Abolition Bill 1852

Underlying this anyway is the ability of people to use wealth and power to controls multiple votes even if they belong to others. The critical point of the secret ballot (under Ballot Act 1872) is not just to protect you from threats by - say - employers or landlords to vote a certain way, but to prevent you selling your vote voluntarily by removing your ability to prove how you voted. Which is why, for example, it is illegal to take selfies in polling booths if they show your ballot.

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Prussia:

In Prussia there was a three-class franchise were the weight of a vote was proportional to the taxes paid by the voter - at least on a group level. It was introduced in the course of the German Revolutions of 1848 and abolished at the end of the First World War.

Citizens who had the right to vote (male; at least 24/25 years old; resident for at least six months; not an active soldier; ...) were sorted according to their taxes and assigned to one of three groups.

The about 4 per cent (in 1913) who collectively paid one third of the taxes voted one third of the representants. The poorest 80 per cent of the voters belonged to the third group. They paid one third of the taxes and consequently chose one third of the representants. This means that the vote of a wealthy landowner or industrialist had about 20 times the weight of an ordinary citizen.

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  • I heard the anecdote that one of the Krupp's paid so much in taxes due to his huge wealth that he alone could name half of Essen's city council according to the three-class franchise. I am not sure whether it is true, though.
    – Jan
    Aug 6 at 12:52
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Some examples have been given in the past, but one of the most astonishing is Sweden, from the 19th century to early 20th century:

Their systems of vote was entirely based on wealth: Richer people had proportionally more votes than poorer people, and it led to awkward situations in small towns with one land lord: the land lord, possessing most lands and having the rest of the town working on its land or industry, or as "services", had more than 50% of the total votes available in the town!

Source for those claims is: French economist Thomas Piketty

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  • Sweden had from 1866 until 1971 a two-chamber system (before that a four chamber riksdag, one chamber for the four parts of society) : the first chamber delegates didn't have any support from their state so they had to be able to support themself to be eligible. The first chamber was indirectly elected by local communities while the second chamber was a directly elected parliament. Mar 24 '20 at 10:02
  • Something else to understand about this: wealthy people of the land didn't have direct voting power because they were neither clerics, farmers or feodal (adel) or city burghers but they ran plants,factories,forgeries or smelters (this until 1866 with the change to the two chamber riksdag.) Mar 24 '20 at 10:16
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In the United States, when the U.S. Constitution was adopted, many states had laws (or state constitutions) requiring that only landowners could vote. If the U.S. Constitution had said otherwise, it might not have been accepted by the states. Over time such voting restrictions have declined, but even the 14th amendment permits states to determine who may vote in their own ways.

As late as 1969, some elections for public office were conditioned on home ownership in the jurisdiction; the U.S. Supreme court struck down one such rule in Kramer v. Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 15, 395 U.S. 621 (1969).

Additional detail: Property Ownership and the Right to Vote: The Compelling State Interest Test

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In the United States, at the time the constitution was formed, many states only landowners could vote. Over time this has declined, but even the 14th amendment permits states to determine who may vote in their own ways. The original framers recognized this was a delicate issue; James Madison for example, wrote this:

The right of suffrage is a fundamental Article in Republican Constitutions. The regulation of it is, at the same time, a task of peculiar delicacy. Allow the right [to vote] exclusively to property [owners], and the rights of persons may be oppressed... . Extend it equally to all, and the rights of property [owners] ...may be overruled by a majority without property....

As late as 1969, some elections for public office were conditioned on ownership of residential property in the jurisdiction; the U.S. Supreme court struck down one such rule in Kramer v. Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 15, 395 U.S. 621 (1969).

Additional detail: Property Ownership and the Right to Vote: The Compelling State Interest Test

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Historically, you had to be a landowner to be allowed to vote in the UK. When that right was introduced (before 1400 or so even landowners didn't have the right to vote), you had to be a landowner paying 40 shillings in land taxes per year, which would be about £2,500 today.

Interestingly, the UK never had race-based voting restrictions, and there were one or two black voters in the 17th century who managed to get themselves into the "landowner" category and used their right to vote.

It wouldn't be dependent on being "rich". For example a highly successful film or music star with 100 million pound in the bank who didn't feel any need to own land wouldn't have had the right to vote according to these rules (but could of course easily have purchased some land and the voting right with it).

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There are a period of time in the Roman Republic when voting power was proportionate to taxes paid.

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One could argue that the market system is one in which the number of votes one has, is equivalent to the wealth one has.

Although modern "democratic" systems have abandoned property qualifications and are almost entirely one-man-one-vote, the core conflict in those systems is frequently over which economic matters will be determined by market forces, and which by direct political control of the democratic government.

Where economic matters are left for resolution in the market, effectively the government has ceded control of those matters back to a system of property qualifications and votes proportional to wealth.

Moreover, the information people receive about political matters, control of institutions which disseminate information, and even influence over public officials and political figures, is itself heavily controlled by market forces (i.e. by a system where the wealthy have disproportionate influence).

Thus, although the rich very rarely if ever have more votes in modern democratic systems, they do continue to have more votes in all institutions and processes which surround it and which flow from it.

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