Tistedt, Petter: The politics of classifying voters: Statistical representations of the people in the aftermath of universal suffrage.

This paper investigates the political and intellectual history of election statistics. In Sweden, official election statistics was first collected in the 1860s. The inclusion of women in the electoral people around 1920, however, prompted a new set of questions: shall sex be among the categories used in statistical descriptions of the electorate? Or shall it be left out, leaving political differences between men and women obscure? These questions were a key part of Swedish parliamentary debates on sex-segregated ballots in 1921 and 1922. This paper asks: What were the consequences of these debates with regard to contemporary understandings of the democratic people? I argue that the debates put forth different and incompatible ways of representing the electoral people – as individuals, as target groups and as a unified whole – entailing conflicting visions of democracy and democratic politics. In both scholarly and popular works on Swedish political history, democracy is often taken for granted as definitive – that is, finally and successfully accomplished – with the introduction of women’s suffrage. The debates on sex-segregated ballots in the aftermath of universal suffrage clearly demonstrates the limitations of that view. In fact, democracy, along with its demos and ways of counting and studying voters, was in motion, controversial, uncertain, and would so remain in the following decades.