The Reform Act 1832 divided Yorkshire into three county constituencies, which each returned two members. The divisions were based on the three ridings, which were traditional sub-divisions of Yorkshire. The West Riding occupied the south western part of the county. The parliamentary constituency covered the whole West Riding, as the non-resident owners of forty shilling freeholds in the Parliamentary boroughs enclaved within the area thereby acquired a county franchise.
The polling place for the West Riding, at which the hustings were held and the result was declared, was at Wakefield. Unusually for British elections detailed results by polling district are available for a by-election in 1835 and the general elections of 1837 and 1841. These details are given in the Elections section below and provide a list of major towns in the area. Electors had to declare their votes (verbally and in public), as this was before the introduction of the secret ballot. (Source: Stooks Smith).
Charles Seymour, in Electoral Reform in England and Wales, commented about the debate in 1832 about the non resident freeholder vote. This was a particularly important issue for the West Riding because the major towns of Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield and the important ones of Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield were all to become new Parliamentary boroughs in 1832.
Though the general principle of the freeholder franchise was accepted without debate, one aspect of the question gave rise to much discussion at the time ... . The bill provided that the freeholders in boroughs who did not occupy their property should vote in the counties in which the borough was situated. This clause drew forth a torrent of complaint, especially from the Conservatives. Peel pointed out that it would be far simpler for the freeholders in the represented boroughs to vote in the borough where their property was situate instead of being forced to travel to the county polling place; moreover if the borough freeholders were allowed to vote in the counties he felt that the boroughs would have an unfair influence in county elections and the rural element would be submerged by the urban.
... Althorp ... pointed out that until 1832 freeholders in the unrepresented towns always had voted in the counties, so the Tories could hardly complain that the ministers were introducing new principles to favour urban interests ... .
Stooks Smith confirms the number of electors in the polling districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire constituency named after Parliamentary boroughs, at a by-election in 1835 (see below), which suggests up to two-thirds out of a total electorate of 18,063 might have qualified because of freeholds located in boroughs. However it is not known if all these urban area voters were qualified as non-resident freeholders in the boroughs.
Registered electors are indicated by the abbreviation reg. Where the exact number of electors casting a vote or votes is unknown, turnout estimated by dividing votes cast by 2. This will underestimate turnout to the extent that electors only used one of their two possible votes.
British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Macmillan Press 1977)
Electoral Reform in England and Wales, by Charles Seymour (David & Charles Reprints 1970) originally published in 1915, so out of copyright
The Parliaments of England by Henry Stooks Smith (1st edition published in three volumes 1844-50), second edition edited (in one volume) by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1973) originally published in 1844-50, so out of copyright
Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume I 1832-1885, edited by M. Stenton (The Harvester Press 1976)