Franchise Qualifications

Franchise Qualifications

In counties, the right to vote was given in 1429 to all men of 21 or over having freehold lands or tenements whose annual net value was £2 or more; until 1774 such voters also had to reside in the county in which that land or tenement was situated. An Act to amend the Representation of the People in England and Wales [7 July 1832] extended the county franchise by giving the vote to: anyone having a life interest in, and occupation of, lands or tenements worth between £2 and £5; all other holders of real property worth at least £10; and occupiers, as tenants, of lands or tenements paying rent of £50 per annum or more. An Act further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation of he People in England and Wales [15 June 1867] reduced the necessary holding of real property from £10 to £5, and also gave the vote to occupiers, as owner or tenant, of lands of the rateable value of £12 or more, and paying poor rates.

To see how much value these monetary amounts represented at the time see here

In boroughs before 1832 the franchise varied widely according to local custom. The 1832 Act standardised this franchise. The right to vote was given to owners or tenants of buildings worth at least £10 per annum, provided they had been in residence for at least 12 months prior to the registration date, 15 July, and that the appropriate poor rates and assessed taxes had been paid. This franchise was extended in 1867 to all owners and tenants of dwellings and to lodgers paying at least £10 per annum who had lived there for at least 12 months.

The 1867 Act did not specify that the ratepayer need be male, and on 26 November 1867 Mrs Lily Maxwell became the first woman to vote in a British parliamentary election, when she cast her vote for Jacob Bright (Liberal) in the Manchester by-election. After several more female Manchester property-owners voted in the 1868 General Election, a court case was put together, and on 9 November 1868 women's suffrage was declared illegal.

In 1884, freeholders of inherited land or land acquired by marriage worth £2; freeholders of any land worth £5; and certain lessees, occupiers and lodgers, were enfranchised. An Act to amend the Laws with respect to Parliamentary and Local Government Franchises, and the Registration of Parliamentary and Local Government Electors, and the conduct of elections, and to provide for the Redistribution of Seats at Parliamentary Elections, and for other purposes connected therewith [6 February 1918] greatly simplified the franchise, giving the vote to men of full age normally resident in the consituency at the qualifying date, those with business qualifications, and graduates of British Universities. Women aged 30 or over, who were local government electors or the wives of local government electors were also given the parliamentary franchise. An Act to assimilate the franchise for men and women in respect to Parliamentary and Local Government elections; and for purposes consequential thereon [2 July 1928] gave women franchise on the same basis as men.

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