Electoral Registers: who could vote and when
Below is a list of changes to voting legislation and what this meant for the people of West Yorkshire and the former county of the West Riding. On the introduction of electoral registers in 1832 the franchise (right to vote) was generally limited to men of considerable wealth and status. The franchise was gradually extended from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century when from 1928 all men and women over the age of 21 finally had the right to vote irrespective of their gender, status or personal wealth. This is known as Universal Suffrage.
Some sections of society have always been excluded from voting. These include:
- lunatics (voluntary patients and the lucid could vote)
- peers (local and European Union peers can vote)
Other groups have been excluded at certain times:
- pre 1887 serving policemen
- pre 1918 postmasters
- 1918-1923 conscientious objectors
Commonwealth citizens residing in Britain are eligible to vote in UK elections. EU citizens in Britain can be registered for EU parliamentary and local elections but cannot vote in UK parliamentary elections.
Qualifications listed for the right to vote in electoral registers pre 1939:
- Residence (R)
- Business premises (B.P)
- Occupation (O)
- Occupation of husband (H.O)
- Naval or military voter (N.M)
|Date||Changes to the franchise||Changes affecting West Riding/West Yorkshire|
|pre 1832|| Parliamentary representation:
||Initially represented by 2 MPs (known as Knights of the Shire), Yorkshire's representation in parliament was increased to 4 MPs in 1822. See here for a list of Yorkshire MPs pre 1832.|
|1832|| Representation of the People Act 1832, otherwise known as Great Reform Act:
|| Yorkshire was divided into the 3 Ridings; the East, North and West Ridings. This was the first time the West Riding was classed as a parliamentary constituency/division. A brief history of the West Riding as a constituency can be found here. See here for a list of West Riding County electoral registers held by WYAS: Wakefield.
The following cities were established as parliamentary boroughs:
In addition to the already established boroughs of:
As parliamentary boroughs these cities were not included in the West Riding county electoral registers. Instead electors from these boroughs can be found in the Burgess Rolls compiled by each borough, see Electoral Registers held at other organisations for more info.
|1862||West Riding county division divided into 2 seats:|
Although the right to vote was still linked to a property qualification this generally meant small land owners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers, skilled workers and craftsmen etc were now enfranchised. The extended qualifications saw parts of the working class able to vote for the first time, largely owing the campaigns orchestrated by the Chartist movement. The electorate almost doubled from 1 million to 2 million men; women were still prevented from voting
| Boundary Review 1867. West Riding county division split into 3 constituencies:
|1869|| Municipal Corporations (Elections) Act 1869:
|1884|| Reform Act 1884:
|1885||-||Redistribution of Seats and Boundary Review 1885. West Riding county registers no longer compiled on a county basis, instead each new constituency had its own registers from 1886. New constituencies created included:|
|1887||Serving policemen able to vote for first time||-|
|1918|| Representation of the People Act 1918:
Boundary Review 1918, parliamentary counties were realigned with administrative counties that had been established in 1889.
The following constituencies were abolished:
|1923||Conscientious objectors excluded from voting after WWI were allowed to vote again||-|
|1928|| Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928:
Now the right to vote did not depend on gender, occupation, class or property. This is known as Universal Suffrage
|1944||Partial Boundary review of Divisions 100,000 or more|
|1948|| Representation of People Act 1948:
|| Boundary Review 1948 made changes to several West Riding constituencies.
|1950||'Y' voters were added to electoral registers; these were people who would come of age (at this point 21) within the year and thus be eligible to vote||-|
|1965||-||Following a reorganisation separate boroughs electoral registers were abolished and the West Riding was made a single parliamentary system. The registers for the following boroughs were transferred into the West Riding County series between 1965 and 1974 and are available to view at WYAS: Wakefield:|
|1969|| Representation of the People Act 1969:
|1974||-||Local Government Act 1972 created the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire which formally existed from 1 April 1974. Constituencies for this area no longer appeared in West Yorkshire county series, see here for information about electoral registers held at other repositories|
|| Boundary Review 1983 brought changes to several West Yorkshire constituencies:
|1985||-||This is the last year electoral registers were compiled on a West Yorkshire county basis. From 1986 the only registers held by WYAS: Wakefield are for constituencies that are part of the Wakefield Metropolitan District; Hemsworth, Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford and Wakefield Divisions|
|2003||-|| Representation of the People (England & Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002: