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Voting in England & Register of Electors

Sovereign Ancestry Lincolnshire - Voting image 1Previous to the 1830s voting in England was the privilege of the few. However, the three Reform Acts, of 1832, 1867 and 1884, all extended voting rights to the previously disfranchised population.

The 1832 Act, which was the most controversial, extended the right to vote to any man owning a household worth £10, adding 217,000 voters to an electorate of 435,000. Thus around one man in five now had the right to vote. The 1867 Reform Act extended the right to vote still further, adding about a million voters - including many working men - and doubling the electorate, to almost two million in England and Wales.

The 1884 bill and the 1885 Redistribution Act tripled the electorate again, giving the vote to most agricultural laborers.

So by this time, voting was becoming a right rather than a privilege. However, women were not granted voting rights until the Act of 1918, which enfranchised all men over 21 and women over thirty.

This last bit of discrimination was eliminated 10 years later (in 1928) by the Equal Franchise Act.

Registers of Electors (Voters Lists) are an excellent resource for the family historian or for those wishing to track precise movements of individuals.

As with all sources survival rates vary from area to area but most County Archives and/or local libraries have at least some collections. Other more comprehensive sets being held in London.

It should however be noted that - apart from the very latest lists - they are arranged and indexed for the most part by Constiruency/Polling District/Address and NOT by personal name. This can make them much less straighforward to deal with.