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Ask – the – Pros – Question and Answer – Voter Registration Lists

Question:

What were the suffrage requirements in 1796 Maryland?

Answer:

This question really involves the more general topic of voter registration lists. Commonly, in most jurisdictions where voting was possible and where registration was required, historic voter registration lists may still be available. Unfortunately, many of these records have yet to make their way online and you may have to search for them in state and local archives as well as historical societies.

One good source for records is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can search the Family History Library Catalog (now called the FamilySearch Library Catalog) online at FamilySearch.org. You will have to click on the “Search” link to see the link to the Catalog. A search by the word “vote” resulted in finding 2,120 different documents. You can also search by location; state, county, city and find records that are specific to your geographic area of interest. Look for the category of Voter Registers. You can also search for voter registration records in other large online databases such as Ancestry.com.

To specifically answer the question above, Maryland did not have universal, free white, male suffrage until 1801. Even in the law passed in 1801, suffrage was limited with a residency requirement of twelve months in the state and six months in the county. For detailed information, see:

Pole, J.R., “Suffrage and Representation in Maryland from 1776 to 1810: A Statistical Note and Some Reflections,” The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 24, No. 2 (May, 1958), pp. 218-225.

Previous to the 1801 law, the qualification for voting in assembly elections was the ownership of a fifty-acre freehold. or of thirty pounds of current money. See Barker, Charles A. The Background of the Revolution in Maryland. [Hamden, Conn.]: Archon Books, 1967, as cited above in Pole.

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