Electoral Reform in England and Wales: The Development and Operation of the Parliamentary Franchise, 1832-1885

By Charles M. A. Seymour | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII REGISTRATION AND THE PARTY ASSOCIATIONS, 1865-1885

Practical operation of the franchise largely affected by registration-- Disqualification of potential electors--Complexity of process of registration--The rate-paying requirement--Abolition of composition in 1867--Resulting protests--Irregularity of enfranchisement--Abolition of rate-paying requirement by the Liberals-- Further removal of restrictions--Case of Morpeth--Continued apathy of prospective claimants--Inefficiency of the overseers-- Causes--Difficulties of registration--Lodger voters practically excluded--Power of registration associations--Gained largely through use of objections--Abuse of this system--Attempts to break the power of the associations--Remedial bills defeated-- Liberal bill of 1873 carried in Commons--But defeated in Lords-- Institution of night courts of revision--Acts of 1878 and 1885-- Recognized the party associations--But checked their abuses of the system of registration--Increased facilities for compilation of lists--Regulation of objections--Effects of these changes-- Reasons for better operation of registration system--Remaining grounds of dissatisfaction--Development of registration system in its relation to electoral democracy.

THE foregoing chapters have attempted a sketch of the chief electoral anomalies which marked the representative system after 1867. Notwithstanding the step made at that time in the direction of democracy, the control of elections still rested largely in the hands of the upper classes,--in part at least because of those anomalies. The unequal distribution of electoral power deprived the industrial constituencies of the seats to which they believed themselves entitled by their wealth and population. And similar inequalities existed in the extent of the suffrage; in boroughs the proportion of voters was high and in

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