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Representation of the People Act 1918

The social upheaval of the First World War led to the Representation of the People Act in 1918, giving the vote to all men over the age of 21 and to certain women over the age of 30.

Challenges after the war

In August 1916, the Government realised that they needed to change the Elections and Registration Act to accomodate the large number of men who had been fighting the war at home and abroad. The primary challenge for Parliament was that men who had fought overseas would no longer be able to vote as they had not been a resident in their constituencies for over a year. Furthermore, calls for women's suffrage could no longer be ignored, particularly in light of their contribution during the war.

What did the Act achieve?

Parliament's response was the Representation of the People Act. For the first time, almost all property qualifications needed for men to vote were abolished. The Act introduced the first steps towards full suffrage with women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications being granted the vote. 

Further changes included introducing the present system of holding general elections on a single day, as well as the annual electoral register. These changes saw the size of the electorate triple from 7.7 million to 21.4 million with women now accounting for about 43% of the electorate.   

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