Colonial Election "Polls"

Election "Poll"

Who Could Vote?

The election "poll" has been used in determining where are ancestors were during the early years of our county. They have been used when census records and tithables lists have not been available. "Not every white male could vote; they had to be a freeholder, owning land or a significant personal estate, to be enfanchised".

In November of 1762 an act was passed which restricted the franchise to "every person shall have a right to vote at any election of Burgesses for amy county who hath an estate of freehold for his own life, or the life of another, or other greater estate, in at leat 50 acres of land if no settlement be made upon it, or 25 acres with a plantation and house thereon, at least twelve feet square, in his possecession, or in the possecssion of his tenant or teanants, for term of years, at will or sufferance, in the same county where he gives such vote;
And any persons having such estate in ro acres of land, in ne tract, uninhabited, lying in two or more counties shall have a right to vote in that county only wherin the greater quantity of the said land lies, althought the same shall not amount to 50 acres in either county;
And every person possessed of 25 acres with a plantation and house thereon...lying in two or more counties shall have a right to vote in that county only where the house shall be, and every person possessed of a lot, or part of a lot in any city or town established by act of Assembly, with a house thereon at least twelve feet square shall have a right to vote at such elections......
The land owner had to have leagal title one whole year before he could quality to vote, unless such lands or tenements came to such person with the time by descent, marriage, marriage settlement or devise."

Who Was Excluded From Voting?

Women--married, or "feme sole" {a married woman action as a single woman}; a male "infant under 21; recusant {one who was a former Catholics}, convict, or any person convicted of a crime in Great Britain or Ireland, during the time for which he is transported {to the cononly}. nor any free Negro, Mulatto or Indian although such persons be freeholders...."
Any exclucded person who did vote would be fined 500 pounds of tobacco, half for the king, and the other half for the informant.

Voting Was Obligatory

"After publication of such writs {of election}, and at the day and place of election, every freeholder actually resident within this county shall personally apear and give his vote, under penalty of forfeiting 200 pounds of tobacco, to any person who will inform or sue for the same; recoverable with costs by action of debt or information, in any county court of his dominion."

How the Vote Was Taken

"The Sheriff or under-sheriff....having books or lists prepared for that purpose, they shall in the courthouse, and before the candidates or their agents present, enter the names of every CANDIDATE in a distinct list or column, and the names of every freeholder giving his vote under the name or names of the persons he votes for, but no freeholder who has voted once shall be admitted to poll any more at that election......"
When more voters appeared than could be polled "before sunsetting on the day of the election", the polls would close until the next day, and "a notice published at the courthous door." The election would be continued on succeeding days until all persons' votes were taken.
Potential voters might be challenged by the Sheriff or any candidate. The voter had to swear under oath what property they owned which qualified them to vote. Quakers were allowed to affirm to their land or property ownership.

*This explaination was found in the Colonial Poll and Tithables Lists of Halifax County, Virginia,
by Mary Bondurant Warren.

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