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Electoral register criteria

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John O
Electoral register criteria

Hi all, what are the rules regarding being on the Liverpool Electoral registers. Reason I am asking is that a person is on a number of the 1950 registers but at the time lived in the Bahamas, and had done since 1947. How were the registers compiled? He appears to not be the main householder as another couple are also named and are also in every entry that he is. Was there any advantage to naming someone else on the register? If it is one year then I could imagine he was visiting, or again would a visitor not count?

Thanks as always, John 


Electoral Rolls or Registers in England • FamilySearch

Overseas Voters, House of Commons Library

If you goole the above, help available.


John O

Many thanks as always Bert, I was not aware of the the 15 year rule, but searching the Overseas Voters link explains that. It looks like they had to register annually to vote and presumably must have given their last known address in the UK every time.

Names - Orrett, Orritt, Ross, McCabe, Keeley, Bullen, White, Leatham, McKeon, Bilsbarrow, Yates, Sennett, Sinnett, Traynor, Ashton

Andy J

Hi John,

 The relevant legislation for the period you asked about was the <a href="">Representation of the People Act 1948</a>. Obviously, by that stage all adult (ie over 21)  British subjects were eligible to vote in Parliamentary elections, provided that they were registered and had legal capacity (ie weren't insane or in prison). A person could not vote in more than one constituency. This is in contrast to earlier times when many people with business premises as well as private homes were registered twice or more, and might be able to vote in two separate constituencies.  The detail about where they were allowed to be registered was contained in section 1(2). The place was the place they were ordinarily resident at the qualifying date. For Polls which occurred between 15 March and 2 October, the qualifying date was the previous 20th November (England and Wales - Scotland used a date in December), and for a poll held between 2 October and the following 16 March, the qualifying date was the previous 15th June. This is why there were two electoral registers per year at that time.

Section 2 then went on to provide a more detailed explanation of what constiuted a person's residence. There were also supplemental regulations for Registration Officers whose job it was to compile the electoral registers. The section 2 rules also allowed for someone whose habitual residence in the UK to be his/her residence for registration purposes even though he might not actually be physically present there on the qualifying date, due to undertaking an office, sevice or employment elsewhere, provided that he intended to return to the qualifying address on completion of the employment etc. This was intended to cover people such as seamen, travelling salesmen etc, as well as diplomats and businessmen who were temporarily outside the country. Separate arrangements existed for those serving in the Armed Forces.

The Registration Officer within each local council was required to  "have a house to house or other sufficient inquiry made as to the persons entitled to be registered ..." In reality I suspect that given the repetitive nature of this job, quite often the head  of the household or person who answered the door might well have just been asked if the details in the previous register were still correct, and this how your person in the Bahamas continued to be on the register, without there having been any deliberate deception.

However I suspect that what is more likely is that the person was registered as an absentee voter in accordance with section 9 of the 1948 ROPA, and was thus eligible to nominate a proxy to vote on his behalf (section 10). As I read the Act, I don't think a postal vote could be used outside the UK, as the ballot paper had to be sent to the address in the electoral register, and this would not have allowed sufficient time for it to be forwarded and returned in time for the count of ballots.

Afternote: Interesting though the Parliament Research Paper is, it doesn't really refer to the situation in the 1950s. As it says at the beginning of the 7th paragraph of the briefing "Before 1985 British citizens resident outside the United Kingdom were unable to register to vote in UK Parliamentary elections"

John O

Many thanks Andy, very comprehensive detail. The point about being a seaman makes sense, as this chap was a ship's steward on the transatlantic routes from Southampton. The fact that he never came back after 1948 was maybe nullified by him being away from home a lot of the time and the records were never amended.

Names - Orrett, Orritt, Ross, McCabe, Keeley, Bullen, White, Leatham, McKeon, Bilsbarrow, Yates, Sennett, Sinnett, Traynor, Ashton