The Franchise - Concept and Evolution
The history of the electoral system in Trinidad and Tobago is deeply rooted in British colonization of the island. Prior to the grant of the franchise in 1924 the native population was denied the right to vote as a means of participating in the process of governance of the then colony.
The attainment of the franchise was marked by struggle which began with a petition signed by seventeen hundred persons and dispatched to the Colonial Office calling for the establishment of Assemblies to include representatives of the native people.
Incessant demands for expansion of the electoral system led to periods of social unrest marked by street demonstrations and the so-called Butler riots of 1937. In 1945, the British Parliament granted universal adult suffrage to Trinidad and Tobago, limited to persons aged 21 years and over. The 1976 Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago extended the franchise to persons 18 years and over.
The first elections in Trinidad and Tobago under universal adult suffrage were held in 1946, and since then the country has continued its quest to enhance and refine the process and the machinery to enable qualified electors to exercise their franchise freely and effectively.
Pertinent events in the evolution of the franchise are indicated in the timelines following:-
Heroes of the Electoral System
In Trinidad and Tobago, the attainment of the Franchise and the evolution of the electoral system were marked by continuous struggle. These are some of the heroes who were in the forefront of the battle to secure the right of the people of Trinidad and Tobago to vote in free and fair national elections.