Ballot box

One person, one vote

Last updated: 23 September 2008

The speed of democratic change increased in the latter decades of the 19th century until by 1950 we had democracy as we now know it.

In 1867 the Conservatives under Disraeli secured a second reform act which gave the vote to all male ratepayers in borough constituencies. In 1871 the secret ballot was introduced, partly because of the persecution suffered by Liberal-voting Welsh tenants at the hands of their Conservative landowners. In 1884 the Liberals secured a third reform act which gave county voters the rights already possessed by borough dwellers.

In the following year, the Redistribution Act increased the number of urban and industrial seats at the expense of rural counties and small market towns. As a result Wales had 34 MPs: 12 for the north; 14 for Glamorgan and Monmouthshire; and eight for the rest of south Wales.

In 1918 all men over 21 - with the exception of conscientious objectors were allowed the vote, a right also extended to women over 30. In 1928 women obtained the same franchise as men. In 1948 the right to have more than one vote - through owning business property or through having a university degree - was abolished.

The general election of 1950 was, therefore, the first truly democratic election in British history. Democracy also came to local government, in particular through the County Councils Act of 1888 and the establishment of elected district and parish councils in 1894.

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