These consists of varies lists of persons entitled to vote. Their value various over the years because not all persons were recorded. Besides qualifications as to property or age there may be other specific requirements such as exclusion of certain persons, residency for a specific time etc. and also different requirements may exist for parliamentary, local and in more recent times European elections.
Besides the Registers there are other related records, for example lists of persons actually voting, newspaper advertisements by voters making petitions etc..
Briefly the groups of persons that are listed on Registers can be divided as follows:-
These are known as Freeholders Lists. A Freeholder was a man who owned his land outright (in fee) or held it under a lease for one or more years or lives.
An Act of 1728 required a freeholder to have his freehold registered 6 months prior to an election. Only Protestants, with a freehold worth at least 40s a year, were eligible to vote.
1829 was the year of Catholic Emancipation Act but it was also the year that the freehold eligibility was raised to £10 sterling so a number of people were disfranchised.
In 1884 the franchise was extended to male householders.
By the Representation of the People Act, 1918 the franchise was extended to women (aged 30 or over) and all men (aged 21 or over) provided they were British subjects. The ownership clause was abolished.
It is said that the electorate increased from 700,000 (in 1910) to almost 2 million.
The Constitution of 1922, Article 14, gave the right to vote to citizens aged 21 years or over and who ‘comply with the provisions of the prevailing electoral laws‘. The term ‘citizen’ was defined in the Constitution. The first register of electors came into force from 1 June 1923 under The Electoral Act of 1923, s.8
By Local Government Extension of Franchise Act 1935 (no.9) all citizens over 21 years and not subject to any legal incapacity were granted the local government franchise
The 1937 Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann), Article 16, gave to every citizen over 21 years and ‘who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann ' the right to vote, by secret ballot, for members of Dáil Éireann (i.e. same as Upper House of Parliament). The same provision was applied by Article 12 to the election of the President.
By a Referendum in 1972 the Constitution was changed to reduce the voting age to 18 years.
As a result of entry to the European Union further provisions were introduced to allow for voting by residents who are non-citizens.