Laying the Foundations of the Modern Voting System: The Representation of the People Act 1918

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Abstract

This article studies the preparation, passage, and consequences of the Representation of the People Act 1918. Commonly known as the fourth and last of the 'Reform Acts' starting in 1832, that transformed the politics of Great Britain into a parliamentary democracy, this major piece of constitutional legislation laid the foundations for the country's present-day voting and electoral system. Most famous for introducing universal adult suffrage and the women's vote, it initiated a large number of new concepts and practices in elections, including making residency in a constituency the basis of the right to vote, whilst institutionalising the first-past-the-post method of election instead of proportional representation (PR). As a political and constitutional process for reform, it was virtually unique in dealing with a range of principles and issues that were deeply controversial, yet ones that were debated and enacted in a spirit of concord amongst parliamentarians about the overriding need for civil reconstruction in the post-war era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33 - 52
Number of pages20
JournalParliamentary History
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

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