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In ancient Rome, who had the right to vote and were all votes equal?

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In ancient Rome, only male citizens of age could vote, and their voting rights varied by social class. Patrician men voted for Senate representation, while plebeians elected members to the Plebeian Council. Votes were not equal, as only wealthy, aristocratic males had full voting rights. Non-citizens, slaves, freedmen, women, and children were excluded from voting.

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During the Roman Republic, although men and women both had the rights of citizenship, only men could vote. Who they were permitted to vote for depended on social class. Patrician men voted for representation in the Senate. Voting for assembly members was organized by tribes and family socio-economic units. Once elected, the senators and other members of the assemblies then voted on laws and elected the two consuls who held the highest political offices in the Roman Republic. The lower class plebeians elected members to serve on the Plebeian Council, who in turn elected the tribunes.

It was very important that eligible citizens not be denied the right and ability to exercise the vote, as it was one of the central premises of the Roman identity. While all male citizens of age could vote, it is important to remember that non-citizens, slaves, freedmen, women, and children did not have the right to vote in Republican Rome even though they made up the bulk of the population.

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In the city of Rome, all citizens were able to vote on the issues of the day in a referrendum-type process, as well as for elected officials. Citizens would gather in a large assembly, hear arguments from passionate orators, and cast lots or raise their hands to indicate their ballot. However, only a small percentage of the inhabitants of Rome were citizens. Only wealthy, aristocratic males of certain familes enjoyed citizenship. Women, servants, the poor and many other social outcasts were denied citizenship and thus could not vote on issue affecting their daily lives. As the city of Rome spread into an empire, the mark of citizenship became even more scare. Inhabitants of occupied lands did not enjoy the privileges of citizenship, even though there were subject to Roman law and even taxation.

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