4 major franchise reforms since women got the vote

Houses of Parliament

It’s been 100 years since (some) women in Britain got the vote. Here are four major reforms since 1918.

1. The Representation of the People Act (1918)

On 6th February 1918, the Representation of the People Act led to women getting the vote for the first time. While this was a welcome step in the right direction, there were still significant limitations. The Act made most men over the age of 21 able to vote while also giving votes to women, but only those over the age of 30 who “met minimum property qualifications”.

Suffragettes - Votes for Women

2. Equal Franchise Act (1928)

Ten years later, the voting eligibility disparity between the two genders was closed when the Equal Franchise Act was introduced. This allowed women aged 21 and above to vote and was a significant step forward for British democracy.

3. Votes at 18

Current franchise discussion centres on lowering the voting age to 16, but in the 60s much of the debate concerned lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. Finally, under Harold Wilson’s Labour government, the Representation of the People Act (1969) lowered the voting age for both women and men.

Harold Wilson Comes To Belle Vue For A Labour Party Rally In 1965

4. Scottish votes at 16

Previous franchise extensions have resulted in change for all citizens across the UK, but the advent of devolution has allowed for a differentiated approach. In 2014, the first 16 and 17-year-olds anywhere in the UK could vote, but only in Scotland during the 2014 independence referendum.

Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds can now vote in Scottish Parliamentary Elections, as well as in Council Elections - and Welsh teens could soon be joining them.