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19th century elections

The 19th century saw a large amount of social and political change. In 1832 the first changes were made to the franchise and the Chartists campaigned for the right to vote for all men. However, corruption and intimidating practises were often a feature of  elections and election campaigns. These problems included the lack of supervision of elections, the lack of a secret ballot and widespread bribery and treating of voters.

What is "treating"?

Treating is the practice of directly or indirectly giving or providing any food, drink, entertainment or provision to influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting. Treating requires a corrupt intent – it does not apply to ordinary hospitality.

How were voters influenced by candidates?

Treating, bribery, influencing and intimidating were commonplace practices well into the late 19th century, with candidates often attempting to influence voters through alcohol, food, indirect payments and employment arrangements. Due to the lack of a secret ballot, voters could be dismissed from employment or evicted from housing if they were known to have voted the wrong way.

Even the most conservative of contemporary reporting indicates that at least 1 in 20 seats were considered to be corrupt after the 1880 election. Royal Commission investigations also conducted after this election would name 9,000 individuals guilty of corrupt practices.

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