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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    One could argue that in many countries (such a the US) the wealthier you are, the more votes you have in the currently seated government. You could also argue that's merely a 'feature' in a representative democracy. – user1530 Jul 17 '15 at 15:08
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    @DA see my update. In US and many other countries each citizen has only one vote to give – kandi Jul 17 '15 at 17:33
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    yea, I think I understood that. I'm not aware of any country where the rich literally have more individual direct votes. In many countries, in many ways, the wealthy can get plenty of indirect votes, though. – user1530 Jul 17 '15 at 17:36
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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
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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

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:

  • Please try to add references to support your answer. – JJJ Nov 3 '19 at 18:58
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    @JJforTransparencyandMonica done – Uri Granta Nov 3 '19 at 19:47
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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

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.



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.


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

  • 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. – Stefan Skoglund 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.) – Stefan Skoglund Mar 24 '20 at 10:16

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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