Disqualification of electors

2.2Certain categories of people are disqualified from voting at a parliamentary election. These are: peers with seats in the House of Lords,1 aliens, persons under 18 years of age, convicted persons during the period of their detention in a penal institution (or mental hospital) in pursuance of their sentence,2 and persons found guilty of corrupt or illegal practices at elections.3 The common law rule preventing those with mental impairments from voting was abolished by the Electoral Administration Act 2006 (c 22), s 73(1).


  1. 1. By the House of Lords Act 1999 (c 34), s 3, an hereditary peerage does not disqualify its holder from voting at parliamentary elections unless he or she has a seat by virtue of s 2 of that Act. As a result, the relevant sessional resolutions of the Commons, eg CJ (1998–99) 1, have been discontinued. Peers who cease to be Members of the House of Lords under either the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, s 4, or the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015, s 4, are also able to vote in parliamentary elections. (For general discussion, see HL Deb (23 March 2015) 760 cc 1224–26.) For peers not enfranchised by the 1999, 2014 or 2015 Acts, see Parl Deb (1852–53) 128, c 791; ibid (1857–58) 151, cc 926, 927; and opinion of the Attorney-General, ibid (1882) 275, c 12. The courts have conclusively decided that peers have no right to vote or to be entered upon the register of electors (Earl Beauchamp v Overseers of Madresfield and Marquess of Salisbury v Overseers of South Mimms (1872) LR 8 CP 245 and Re Bristol S E etc Election [1961] 3 All ER 354, and see Marquess of Bristol v Beck 71 JP 99, 51 Sol Jo 190. See also the Report of the Committee of Privileges in the case of the Earl of Roden, who before his succession to the title, had been placed on the parliamentary register for the South Down division of County Down, and voted at an election in that division after succeeding to the title, as his name remained on the register, HC 153 (1911); and Re Bristol SE etc Election [1961] 3 All ER 354 ). There is no bar to the Lords Spiritual voting in elections, but by long convention they do not do so (HL Deb (1983–84) 443, cc 242–45; for life peers voting, see HL Deb (23 March 2015) 760 cc 1224–26). Irish peers are entitled to vote under the Peerage Act 1963, s 5.
  2. 2. Representation of the People Act 1983, ss 3, 3A; following the ECtHR judgment in Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2) [2005] ECHR 681, [2005] ECHR 74025/01 the Government announced that prisoners will be notified that on conviction they will lose the right to vote by amending the standard warrant of committal to prison to ensure that prisoners are notified of their disenfranchisement and that Prison Service guidance for prisoners released on temporary licence and prisoners released on home detention curfew will be clarified, allowing a limited number of convicted prisoners the vote (HC Deb (2 November 2017) 630, c 1007).
  3. 3. Representation of the People Act 1983, ss 160, 173.