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This paper gives a history of the Parliamentary franchise and shows the incremental stages which led to universal suffrage across the UK by drawing on several of the recognised sources which have dealt with the subject and by referring to the key legislation.

It gives a summary of eligibility to vote in Parliamentary elections before the reforms of the nineteenth century and then gives the main changes introduced by the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867/8 and 1884. The paper also gives details of the main changes of the Representation of the People Acts which created universal male suffrage, the first female suffrage and then universal adult suffrage.

The paper also briefly summarises the main reasons for disqualification from eligibility to vote and also briefly describes the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to 18 year olds in 1969 and to overseas voters in 1985.

Documents to download

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