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Electoral Registers and Poll Books


  • Electoral Registers and Poll Books

    Before 1928, the right to vote depended on ownership of property, gender and age. Before 1832, the right to vote varied between constituencies. In county constituencies, it was held by every freeholder who possessed land worth forty shillings per annum. In the boroughs, the franchise could be very narrow.

    Finding individuals can be very difficult as there was no set procedure for recording the voters and there have been many boundary changes over the years.

    Poll books

    Poll books are the records of the votes cast at General Elections. From 1693, the Returning Officers were obliged to list not just the names of the voters, but also how they voted. They provide extensive information on who voted in parliamentary elections. You should be aware that they only record the names of people who actually voted, not those who were entitled to vote.

    Usually divided by parish, they list the name of each voter and the candidate(s) for whom he voted. In general, one had to be a freeholder in order to vote, i.e. an owner of land or property. They often also contain the voter's qualification for being able to vote, together with the address of the person.

    They were published from 1696 right through to 1872, when with the introduction of the secret ballot, they ceased to be used.

    Kent County Council Elections 1981.
    The Liberal candidate winning the county seat from the Tories

    Electoral Rolls or Registers are lists of individuals who are entitled to vote.

    In 1832 they included only male owners of larger properties and tenants; the 1867 Reform Act extended the franchise to male owners of property worth £5 per annum and tenants paying £12 per annum, and in 1884 to all male householders and lodgers paying £10 per annum.

    From 1918 most women over 30 were included.

    From 1928, all adults could vote in all elections. In 1970, the age of eligibility was reduced to 18.

    Registers will be held by the Local Studies Library or Record Office for the area you wish to search. They are very helpful in listing the presence of individuals and their addresses, though other personal details are not given and children are not listed. They are only searchable by address and not by name.

    Registration was suspended in both World Wars and there are no registers for 1916 and 1917 (1915-17 in Scotland) and from 1940 to 1944 inclusive.

    Under the Data Protection Act of 1998, registers are now less accessible from 2002 onwards, where voters have the option of being listed separately in a flagged list.

    Ancestry: UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893 (£)

    Findmypast: Electoral Rolls 2002-2014 (£)

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