CHAPTER IV
VOTERS IN GREAT BRITAIN

The people are commonly said to govern Great Britain. The basis of this dictum is the fact that almost all adult British citizens are voters. In other words, these citizens, through the possession of the franchise, have an initial voice in determining how the country shall be governed.

There are two franchises in Great Britain, the national and local.1 The national is somewhat more liberal than the local. The local franchise, as a matter of fact, is, roughly speaking, at least as liberal in practice as the franchise of most democratic countries. The fact that the national franchise is still more liberal is merely marked evidence of the wide extent of the national suffrage.

The fact that the present national British franchise is extended so widely is determined by the existence of provisions of law that regulate the qualifications for voting. These provisions are contained in a great Act of Parliame as amended. The Act is known as the Representation of the People Act of 1918. It has been amended in several important respects, especially by the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928.

The Acts of Parliament of 1918 and 1928, which establish basic qualifications for voting that are as simple as can easily be imagined, may be regarded as the culmination, on the legal side, of a steady development towards the establishment in England of political democracy. This development took place within the course of a period of about one hundred years. The several stages of the development were marked by a series of historic Acts of Parliament dealing with the suffrage.

____________________
1
V., for local suffrage qualifications, Ch. XVI, pp. 262-263, infra.

-21-

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