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 V
REGISTRATION: THE CREATION OF VOTES

Function of electoral registration --No such system in general operation before 1832--Necessity of registration recognized by framers of Reform Act--Details of the registration system --The overseers and their duties--Compilation of the lists --Claims and objections--Revision of the lists --The revising barristers --Failure of the system--Disfranchisement of qualified persons --Attempts at reform--The act of 1843 --It proves unsatisfactory --The creation of votes--Faggot votes --Party activity --The registration associations--The Anti-Corn Law League --Its success in Yorkshire--Impurity of electoral lists --Duplicate voters --Resulting power of party agents.

THE scope of the Reform Act was not confined to the definition of electoral qualifications and the redistribution of seats; it also introduced a series of regulations which had for their purpose the supervision and control of the franchise conferred in 1832. These regulations made up the system of electoral registration, and their practical effect upon the actual operation of the franchise can hardly be overestimated. Registration is the process which transforms the potential into the actual voter. A person is legally possessed of the right to vote, if he holds a certain qualification; but before he may exercise that right and cast his vote, he is required to prove his qualification and have his name entered upon the electoral lists.

In modern eyes such electoral lists, which form conclusive evidence of the right to vote, seem an almost inherent part of any representative system, and necessary to

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