Electoral registers and voting

Electoral registers or voter’s lists (sometimes known as electoral roll) are lists of names of people entitled to vote. Denbighshire Archives holds registers dated between 1832 and 2017. These are divided below into pre 1974 and post 1974.

When looking for a person on an electoral register, you will find their full name, their residence, and the property on which they qualify to vote (this is not always the same as residence). There is no name index to electoral registers, so it is vital to know the street/polling district of the person you are looking for.

What records can I find at Denbighshire Archives?

Electoral Registers dated pre-1974

The Act of 1832 extended the county franchise to include men aged 21 or over possessing copyhold property to the value of £10 per annum, leaseholders of £50, and long leaseholders of £10, in addition to freeholders of 40s.0d. Further extensions to the franchise were made by the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884. In 1918, women over 30 were granted the right to vote if they met minimum specified property qualifications. It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, that women and men over the age of 21 could vote equally.

The Quarter Sessions records contain electoral lists and registers dated between 1832 and 1974.

The lists and registers provide the name of the voter, his abode, the nature of his property, qualification and the place where the property is situated.

Electoral ‘lists’ or ‘bundles’, rather than ‘register’ can refer to a number of types of documents:

  • Manuscript parish returns (1833-60). These are the lists of claimants sent in by the parish overseer to the clerk of the peace for the attention of the revising barrister. These sometimes contain additional information: occupations, alterations in residence and whether the voter died or left the parish.
  • Drafts of the printed registers, usually based on the previous year’s register with amendments.
  • Unbound copies of the printed register.

Lists can be incomplete or missing in three ways:

  • where details for certain parishes have not survived (for example there are many incomplete registers in the interwar period (1918-1939)
  • where the register was never compiled (this is the case for 1916-17 during the First World War and 1940-1945 during the Second World War)
  • where electors lists ‘B’ and ‘C’ only have survived, containing names of newly qualified electors and electors no longer qualified.

From 1832, Denbighshire returned 2 members of parliament, one for the county constituency and a second for the Denbigh Boroughs constituency. The Redistribution of Seats Act (1885) divided Denbighshire into 3 constituencies:

  • Western (also known as Denbigh)
  • Eastern (also known as Wrexham)
  • Denbigh Boroughs constituency (the boroughs of Denbigh, Holt, Ruthin and Wrexham)

The Denbigh Boroughs constituency was amalgamated with the two county constituencies in 1918.

Electoral Registers dated post 1974

Since 1974, electoral registers have been compiled by local authorities. The registers are divided into units called ‘Polling Districts’ which are combined to form parliamentary constituencies. Registers are arranged by polling district (these vary over time) which makes them difficult to search by name if the area of residence for a person is unknown.

Post 1974 registers include three registers per year covering Colwyn, Glyndwr and Wrexham Boroughs of Clwyd County Council.

Post 1996 registers cover the area of ‘New’ Denbighshire.

As a consequence of new regulations, two versions of the electoral register have been produced since 2003:

  • The full version of the register contains the names of all voters and is used primarily to support the electoral process. Public access to it is strictly controlled and the data can only be used for research purposes.
  • The open register, also known as the edited register, is available for sale for commercial use for direct marketing, advertising, etc. It omits the names of electors who have exercised their right to opt out to protect their privacy.

Denbighshire Archives holds the full version registers only. Public access to registers dated within the last 10 years is strictly controlled and the data can only be used for research purposes.

Missing registers

Registers were not published during the latter years of the First World War (1916–1917) or the Second World War (1940–1944).

Absent voters lists

Absent voters lists give the names of servicemen who were absent (i.e. in the armed forces) from voting; their home address; description of service; ship/regiment, number, rank, and rating. Some of the electoral registers also contain absent voter’s lists. These include:

Parish electoral roll

Parish records often contain parish electoral rolls. Parish electoral rolls are lists of members of a specific church. This qualifies parishioners to vote and hold office within the Church in Wales.

Borough Records

Denbigh Borough election papers can be found in Denbigh Borough records (BD/A/203-305)

Electoral registers for Colwyn Bay Urban District Council for 1928 to 1934 can be found in the Colwyn Bay Urban District Council records (UDD/A/1/229-233)

Electoral registers for Colwyn Bay Borough for 1935 and 1937 can be found in Colwyn Bay Borough records (BD/D/133-134).

What language were the records written?

These records are in English. It is our policy to catalogue records in the language they were originally written.

How can I access these records?

No digital images of these records are available online. However, the British Library do provide access to some English and Welsh registers through a full ancestry subscription.

You can view electoral registers in our searchroom. Book a place in the searchroom today.

Access to electoral registers is subject to restriction for 10 years after publication, to comply with legislation on Representation of the People and Data Protection. Access is only permitted in the searchroom under staff supervision. During supervised access only handwritten notes are permitted. No copies can be provided and researchers will be asked to sign a data protection declaration form on arrival.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

The British Library

The British Library hold a full set of electoral registers for England and Wales from 1947 onwards.