In 1832 the Representation of the People Act1—also known as the Reform Act—radically changed the composition of the UK parliament. Of 203 boroughs (constituencies) that had existed until then, 56 were abolished altogether and 31 had their number of representatives reduced to one (in the case of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis from four to one). Instead, 135 new seats were added for England and Wales: each of 26 English counties—including Sussex—were split into two divisions, each electing two members, as did the remaining eight English and three Welsh whole counties and three Yorkshire ridings. Brighton was among 22 large boroughs that now got to vote for two members of parliament; a further 21 towns had one member. The new constituencies were defined in the Parliamentary Boundaries Act2.
The Reform Act did increase the size of the electorate but not as much as might be imaged. Nationally, it was estimated that 70 per cent of the new electorate was already enfranchised under the old system.
In boroughs male residents living in houses worth at least £10 a year had the right to vote, voter registration being introduced under the administration of the town's overseers of the poor. The inclusion of the word 'male', incidentally, disenfranchised women who had previously qualified as electors in respect of the possession of property in their own right.
The Representation of the People Act 1918, also known as the Fourth Reform Act, removed most property qualifications and enfranchised women aged over 30 who qualified as or were married to a local government elector or had graduated from a university that conferred a vote. From 7.7m in 1912 the national electorate rose to 21.4m as a result of the Act.
In 1928 the franchise was extended to universal suffrage for all adults aged 21 and over.4
The Representation of the People Act 19485 changed existing parliamentary boundaries by creating single-member constituencies where two members had hitherto been returned. This meant that the two-seat Brighton constituency was divided into Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion and Hove, each with one seat, with effect from the 1950 general election. The university constituencies were also abolished.
The minimum voting age was lowered to 18 by the Representation of the People Act 1969.
As of March 2013 the three parliamentary constituencies comprise the following local authority wards:
• wards in City of Brighton & Hove: East Brighton, Moulsecoomb & Bevendean, Queen's Park, Rottingdean Coastal, Woodingdean;
• wards in Lewes District Council/East Sussex County Council: East Saltdean and Telscombe Cliffs, Peacehaven East, Peacehaven North, Peacehaven West. [These wards form respectively the Telscombe and Peacehaven Town Councils and together make one ward with two seats on East Sussex County Council.]
• Hanover & Elm Grove, Hollingdean & Stanmer, Patcham, Preston Park, Regency, St Peter's & North Laine, Withdean.
• Brunswick & Adelaide, Central Hove, Goldsmid, Hangleton & Knoll, Hove Park, North Portslade, South Portslade, Westbourne, Wish.
The Boundary Commission proposals published in 2012 would make the following changes to parliamentary constituences:
• the whole of Brunswick and Adelaide and Goldsmid wards in Hove (5% of B&A and 0.2% of Goldsmid are in Brighton Pavilion);
• the whole of Hanover and Elm Grove in Brighton Pavilion (39% is in Brighton Kemptown);
• the whole of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean in Brighton Kemptown (0% in Brighton Pavilion);
• the whole of Queen's Park in Brighton Kemptown (19% in Brighton Pavilion).