These were introduced in 1696, when sheriffs were first required to compile records of the poll in county elections.
Usually divided by parish, they list the name of each voter and the candidate(s) for whom they voted.
As the franchise did not become universal for men and women until 1928, the poll books include only a small proportion of the population.
Poll books were effectively abolished by the Secret Ballot Act 1872.
The poll books we hold at the Record Office are shown in the table below.
|Bramber Borough||1721, 1768|
|Bramber Rape||1784, 1807, 1836, 1841, 1865|
|Chichester||1781-1782, 1784, 1791, 1793, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1830, 1831|
|Midhurst||1708, 1710, 1711, 1716, 1735/6, 1737/8, 1741, 1744, 1747, 1754|
|New Shoreham||1774, 1784, 1807, 1837, 1865|
These registers have been compiled for the county every year since the 1832 Reform Act, with the exception of the war years 1916-1917 and 1940-1944.
West Sussex Record Office holds a full set of county electoral registers from 1832, with the following exceptions: 1833, 1834, 1836, 1837, 1840 and 1841.
It should be noted that from 1885-86 to 1915 the following were a part of the Mid or Lewes Division of Sussex and the registers are held at East Sussex Record Office:
Botolphs, Bramber, Broadwater, Clapham, Coombes, Durrington, Edburton, Fulking, Goring, Heene, Henfield, Kingston-by-Sea, Lancing, Old and New Shoreham, Sompting, Steyning, Upper Beeding, West Tarring, Woodmancote and Worthing.
From 1832 to 1974 the parishes of Mid Sussex were part of various East Sussex Divisions. For these, too, the registers are held at East Sussex Record Office.
Registers of municipal and parliamentary electors for Chichester 1883-1845, 1868 and 1883-1914 (including women from 1883) are also held at West Sussex Record Office.
Who is recorded?
In 1832 they included only male owners of larger properties and tenants; the 1867 Reform Act extended the franchise to male owners of property worth £5 per annum and tenants paying £12 per annum, and in 1884 to all male householders and lodgers paying £10 per annum.
The Representation of the People Act of 1918 introduced a universal male franchise and included all women over 30; in 1928 the female qualifying age was reduced to 21. The qualifying age for men and women was reduced to 18 in 1969.