An act of parliament, The Representation of the People Act 1918, was passed to reform the electoral system in Great Britain and Ireland. The act granted the vote to all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification, (Women only gained electoral equality after the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928).
With this act being passed during the height of WWI, special provision had to be made so that people engaged on War Service could vote. This included members of the armed forces, the Merchant Navy and those serving with the Red Cross who could vote either by post or via a proxy. As well as being included on the main register for each constituency, military voters were also placed on a separate Absent Voters List.
The Absent Voters Lists were made up of details supplied by the next of kin in the service personnel’s household for the 1918 election. These details were then passed to the War Office where arrangements were made to send voting cards to those servicemen who were elsewhere in the UK and ballot papers to those in France, Flanders and Italy. Those further afield were able to vote by proxy by completing a specific form. Even prisoners of war were entitled to vote although the logistics of how that may have happened are not clear.
These lists can be a valuable resource if you are trying to trace details of a WW1 soldier.
Period covered: WWI
Please be aware that due to the way we collate, and cross reference our databases, some records will contain more information than that listed above.
Original Source: These records are stored in published books, local libraries and archives throughout the UK.