Friday, January 17, 2014

The Franchise in Great Britain

The centenary of World War I has set off a debate in Great Britain, about which you can read here.  One sentence there struck me:
Britain wasn’t a democracy at the time either: until the Fourth Reform Act of 1918, 40% of adult males didn’t have the vote, in contrast to Germany, where every adult man had the right to go to the ballot box in national elections.
Some digging into Wiki provided this:

1. The First Reform Act of 1832:
The Act also increased the number of individuals entitled to vote, increasing the size of the electorate from about 500,000 to 813,000, and allowing a total of one out of six adult males to vote, in a population of some 14 million.
2. The Second Reform Act of 1867:
Before the Act, only one million of the five million adult males in England and Wales could vote; the Act immediately doubled that number. Moreover, by the end of 1868 all male heads of household were enfranchised as a result of the end of compounding of rents. 
3. The Third Reform Act of 1884:
The act extended the 1867 concessions from the boroughs to the countryside. All men paying an annual rental of £10 or all those holding land valued at £10 now had the vote. The British electorate now totalled over 5,500,000....The 1884 Reform Act did not establish universal suffrage: although the size of the electorate was widened considerably, all women and 40% of adult males were still without the vote at the time. Male suffrage varied throughout the kingdom, too: in England and Wales, 2 in 3 adult males had the vote; in Scotland, 3 in 5 did; and in Ireland, the figure was only 1 in 2.
 4. The Fourth Reform Act of 1918:
  1. All adult males gain the vote, as long as they are 21 years old or over and are resident in the constituency
  2. Women over 30 years old receive the vote but they have to be either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency (be a graduate).
.....It is worth noting that had women been enfranchised based upon the same requirements as men, they would have been in the majority because of the loss of men in the war.
5. The Fifth Reform Act of 1928:
It widened suffrage by giving women electoral equality with men.

This luxury of time is worth keeping this in mind.