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Contemporary context

Women finally got equal voting rights with men when the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 was passed. This allowed women over 21 to vote for the first time. Electoral equality between men and women has been maintained ever since.

Significant extension

In 1969 the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. This has been the only significant extension to voting rights since 1928, although proposals to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 have been supported by some MPs and Members of the House of Lords.

Despite their hard won voting rights, to which all adult UK citizens are now entitled regardless of their background, wealth or sex, many people still decide not to vote.

Fawcett Society

The Fawcett Society, named in honour of Millicent Fawcett, leader of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, has published recent studies into gender and political participation, to examine why women choose to vote or not.

Apathy amongst voters, both male and female, has been a noticeable feature of recent parliamentary elections. The turnout at the 2001 General Election was the lowest since 1918 with only 59.4 per cent of registered electors casting a vote.

Increasing public engagement

To increase public engagement, Parliament has looked at how voters can be persuaded to engage with the election process and parliamentary questions on the matter are often raised.

Page last updated August 2016.

Related information

Read the latest parliamentary material on the topic of elections

Find out about different types of parliamentary elections and the constituency system