Benfleet and the right to vote
The process by which citizens of Benfleet obtained the right to vote was long and slow as the table below shows. Despite the accolade of being the “Great Reform Act” of 1832, little changed in rural areas like Benfleet until the twentieth century. The table is not a list of every general election but a record of the voting changes and the impact made on the following election as regards the size of the electorate.
What also surprised me in those nineteenth century elections was the number of voters who did not reside in Benfleet ….in most cases these absentee landlords have long gone……in fact in recent times Castle Point had the reputation of being the local authority with the highest percentage of private ownership.
It wasn’t until 1918 that a significant number of Benfleet folk were entitled to vote, but even then a couple of factors need to be borne in mind…firstly the constituency boundaries keep changing and secondly the number of people living in Benfleet grew rapidly in the twentieth century. I have wherever possible used figures based on the parish/political wards of South Benfleet rather than Benfleet as a local authority area.
Another surprise was to find that it wasn’t until 1950 that multiple votes (plural voting) were abolished.
|General election year||Constituency changes||Reforming legislation||Vote extended|
|1802 – 1832||Essex||5|
|1832||South Essex||Great Reform Act||Propertied adult|
|1 in 7|
males now en-franchised
|10 (see Barstable Hundred list for names||number may have doubled but…|
|1868||South Essex||Reform Act 1867||Adult male house-holders||16||of those, only 6 lived in Benfleet !|
|1885||South East Essex||Represent-ation of the People’s Act 1884||Counties as well as boroughs||5.5 million men now en-franchised (= 40% male pop).||22||little impact locally|
|1918||South East Essex||Represent-ation of the People’s Act 1918||Males over 21 and propertied women over 30||Electorate rose to 21.4 million||779|
|1929||South East Essex||Represent-ation of the People’s Act 1928||Equal rights for women over 21||2835|
|1950||South East Essex||Represent-ation of the People’s Act 1948||One person one vote||6002|
|1970||Castlepoint and Rochford||Represent-ation of the People’s Act 1969||Everyone over 18||11586|
|2013||Castlepoint and part of Basildon ?||Only a proposal|