Author Topic: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s  (Read 971 times)

Offline PeterProg

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Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« on: Friday 21 August 20 02:19 BST (UK) »
I'm making use of UK Electoral Registers from the 1920s-1940s to keep track of some distant relatives, a couple, that I am researching. They moved around the south of England reasonably regularly over this period, in part because the husband regularly came to police attention (he was a low level con man).  They also varied their name from time to time, no doubt in an attempt to keep ahead of the authorities.

What is notable is that the wife appears without fail in the Electoral Registers right throughout this period, albeit under different names from time to time, but the husband appears only sporadically.  I am trying to establish how best to interpret this.

I know that voting is not compulsory in the UK, but am I right to think - in this period at least, the 1920s-1940s - that registering to vote was also not compulsory?  I'd be interested to know more of the precise process for registering to vote at this time.  Was it the responsibility of the individual to take the initiative and make themselves known to the relevant local authority to register, or was it the responsibility of the local authority to follow up with people who they were aware - perhaps through rates or rent books - were residing in the area but were not on the register?

Also, in this period, was there a fixed cut off point in the calendar to appear in the Electoral Register for the following year - that is, if you were going to appear in the Register for 1931, was there a fixed point in late-ish 1930 by which time you had to have registered?

If registering was not compulsory, and only at the initiative of the would-be voter, then the fellow I am researching may well have been typically residing with his wife, but choosing to stay off the register most of the time in the interests of keeping a low profile.  However, if the process was one where the local authority would follow up with individuals to ensure that they were registered, this makes it more likely that he was living apart from his wife more often than not.  Certainly, in his 'line of work', there were periods where he travelled frequently and I would imagine that he could be away for relatively extended periods plying his trade.

The exact process and requirements for registration should provide some insight into his possible movements over this period.  I'd be most appreciative of any advice on these processes and timings.

Thanks
Peter

Offline arthurk

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #1 on: Friday 21 August 20 11:02 BST (UK) »
Have you seen the British Library's guide to electoral registers? This is at

https://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/uk-electoral-registers

The pdf document listed there "Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers Since 1832" has a good introduction which might answer some of your questions. Some of the other links might also help, but I haven't explored them myself.
Researching among others:
Bartle, Bilton, Bingley, Campbell, Craven, Emmott, Harcourt, Hirst, Kellet(t), Kennedy,
Meaburn, Mennile/Meynell, Metcalf(e), Palliser, Robinson, Rutter, Shipley, Stow, Wilkinson

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Offline Jon_ni

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #2 on: Friday 21 August 20 11:24 BST (UK) »
Certainly is is now a legal requirement to register and have not read anything to the contary for the 1920's. Later registers, 1945 on, record the Qualifying date for the roll if you skip back to the title page for the area using the bottom image bar (not page 1), and really referring to those I have used on Ancestry rather than the pdf's on FindMyPast. Pre 1945 go by the below, certainly helps get marriages and deaths fit correctly rather than being listed after death. Some of Ancestry's in Yorkshire the date referenced is 2 out, the end of the In Force period.

following from page 23 of the BL pdf:

For research purposes the qualifying date is of more relevance than the date registers come into force
but this date is less easy to establish. This is now explicitly stated on registers but this was not always so.

In England and Wales the qualifying date was 31 July until 1878 and 15 July from 1879 until 1914.
From 1918 it was 15 January for the Spring register while they lasted and 15 July for the Autumn or annual registers until 1928.
It was 1 December 1928 for the 1929 register and 1 June for the 1930-39 and [30th June] for the 1945-49 registers.
The qualifying date for the May 1945 register was 1 January and for the March 1946 one was the preceding 1 December.
From 1950 to 1954 it was the previous 20 November
From 1955 to 2000 the previous 10 October, after which it became 15 October from 2001.

another site with similar info is https://www.electoralregisters.org.uk/codes


Offline rosie99

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #3 on: Friday 21 August 20 11:46 BST (UK) »
certainly helps get marriages and deaths fit correctly rather than being listed after death.

Whilst I agree it does help sometimes the information for the occupants of a property were just carried over onto the next register if new information had not been received.
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Offline Guy Etchells

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #4 on: Friday 21 August 20 12:32 BST (UK) »
Certainly is is now a legal requirement to register and have not read anything to the contary for the 1920's. Later registers, 1945 on, record the Qualifying date for the roll if you skip back to the title page for the area using the bottom image bar (not page 1), and really referring to those I have used on Ancestry rather than the pdf's on FindMyPast. Pre 1945 go by the below, certainly helps get marriages and deaths fit correctly rather than being listed after death. Some of Ancestry's in Yorkshire the date referenced is 2 out, the end of the In Force period.

following from page 23 of the BL pdf:

For research purposes the qualifying date is of more relevance than the date registers come into force
but this date is less easy to establish. This is now explicitly stated on registers but this was not always so.

In England and Wales the qualifying date was 31 July until 1878 and 15 July from 1879 until 1914.
From 1918 it was 15 January for the Spring register while they lasted and 15 July for the Autumn or annual registers until 1928.
It was 1 December 1928 for the 1929 register and 1 June for the 1930-39 and [30th June] for the 1945-49 registers.
The qualifying date for the May 1945 register was 1 January and for the March 1946 one was the preceding 1 December.
From 1950 to 1954 it was the previous 20 November
From 1955 to 2000 the previous 10 October, after which it became 15 October from 2001.

another site with similar info is https://www.electoralregisters.org.uk/codes
I believe it was not until the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 that refusing to register to vote was made an offence.
The above Act provided a Civil penalty for failing to make application when required by registration officer.
Cheers
Guy
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Offline chempat

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #5 on: Friday 21 August 20 14:18 BST (UK) »
'1.1 Criminal penalties
Penalties for failing to provide information to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) have a
long history. For example, a fine for not returning the canvass to the relevant officer was first
introduced through the Representation of the People Act 1918, which made provision for a
householder to be fined if they did not return the form issued by the registration officer.'

from : Electoral registration: Penalties for providing false information or refusing to provide information

Offline Jon_ni

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #6 on: Friday 21 August 20 15:31 BST (UK) »
thanks Chempat
links https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06940/ and https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-introduces-legislation-for-individual-electoral-registration

which refer to the Representation of the People Act 1918 - pdf: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1918/64/enacted

It seems the onus was on the Electoral Register to perform a house to house survey (page 290 original doc), to compile the books and ensure accuracy, but people were obliged to provide info to him for that purpose.

Offline PeterProg

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 22 August 20 03:12 BST (UK) »
Thank you very much everybody for all of this very valuable information and insight. 

While the husband I am researching was a practiced, albeit low level, con-man, my feeling has always been that the wife was inclined to be comparatively law-abiding and conscientious, at least as far as her own affairs were concerned. 

The conclusion I would draw from all of the information here is that, in the years in which only she appears in the Register, it is most likely that her husband was away 'on business' at or around the time of the qualifying date or whenever else she registered.  She would have completed registration to reflect that only she was in residence.  I also suspect that in the years they both appear on the Register, he would have been around, but almost certainly she would have completed the necessary paperwork for both of them. 

While I can never be completely sure, this seems like the most likely scenario based on the legislative and process requirements that I am confident she would have sought to follow.  Thank you again for all the advice, very much appreciated.

Cheers
Peter

Offline Guy Etchells

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Re: Registering to Vote in the 1920s-1940s
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 22 August 20 14:17 BST (UK) »
'1.1 Criminal penalties
Penalties for failing to provide information to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) have a
long history. For example, a fine for not returning the canvass to the relevant officer was first
introduced through the Representation of the People Act 1918, which made provision for a
householder to be fined if they did not return the form issued by the registration officer.'

from : Electoral registration: Penalties for providing false information or refusing to provide information


Yes but that is not the same as a person being required to register to vote.
The older requirement was, I believe for the householder to submit who they thought was eligible to vote in the local and national elections, there was as far as I know no compulsion for every individual to register.
If a person rented a house under a false name then the householder would legitimately register that name on the electoral register.
This may seem a small difference but it is an important difference when looking for missing people.
Cheers
Guy
http://anguline.co.uk/Framland/index.htm   The site that gives you facts not promises!
http://burial-inscriptions.co.uk Tombstones & Monumental Inscriptions.

As we have gained from the past, we owe the future a debt, which we pay by sharing today.