After census returns, electoral registers are probably the second most useful means by which a person’s presence in a particular community can be established. The electoral register’s main flaw is that it will only provide the name of adults and, in more modern times, a tendency for some people not to register, resulting in their absence from the list.
Some important dates:
The secret ballot was introduced as a temporary measure in 1872 (but not made permanent until 1918).
The 1884 Representation of the People Act gave the vote to any man aged 21 or over, who had occupied property or land with an annual rateable value of £10 for twelve months.
1918: The residential qualification was reduced to six months and servicemen aged 19 or over became eligible to vote in their home constituency, but non-combatant males still needed to be 21 and most women 30 years of age.
1928: The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act lowered the voting age for women to 21 years old.
1969: The age limit for voting was reduced to 18 years old for men and women.
Those whose names have been omitted from the register in the past, even if they were otherwise qualified to vote are:
There are two principal dates associated with each register, the 'qualifying date' by which a voter establishes the right to vote in that constituency and the date on which the register comes into force. For family historians, the qualifying date is the most meaningful, since it should establish ownership, occupation or residence at a particular address on or by that date. Some voters may have died or moved on by the time the register came into force.
At present, this website contains three electoral registers, which could be invaluable for bridging the gap between the 1901 census and the present day.
1918: Two registers were produced as well as an ‘Absent Voters List’. The qualifying dates were 15th January, which came into force on 15th April, and 15th July, which came into force 15th October.
1934: Qualifying date April, came into force 15th October.
1957: Qualifying date 10th October 1956. Came into force 16th February 1957.
The contents of more electoral registers will be added as they become available.