the right to vote in elections
Origin and usage
The noun franchise originally meant freedom from servitude, and it was first used with this meaning in English in the early 14th century. The meaning of ‘the right to vote’ was first recorded in the 18th century. Franchise is a borrowing from the French ‘franchese’.
If you see the word franchise in use these days, it is most likely to refer a business model in which someone agrees to sell a company’s products in return for payment or part of the profits, or to a business of this type. Some governments also use a franchise system to allocate the right to run certain services, for example broadcasting or rail. A franchiser is a business that sells franchises, and a franchisee is a person or business that holds a franchise. In politics, the franchise is simply the right to vote; this meaning only started to be used when the word had been around for almost four centuries. The business uses date from the early 20th century. To grant someone the right to vote is to enfranchise them and this process is referred to as enfranchisement. To take away someone’s right to vote, for example by putting obstacles in their way such as not allowing them to register, is to disenfranchise them.
“I hope that no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant.”
(John F Kennedy)
the polls, the vote, enfranchise