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Electoral Rolls: History of Voting Eligibility

Australian Electoral Rolls (Commonwealth) all States and Territories

Voting in South Australia

Voting rights have changed over time. The first elections in South Australia were held in 1851 for the Legislative Council - 16 Members returned by electors, 8 Members nominated by the Crown. Voting was restricted to men, 21 years and older, who owned or leased property up to a certain value ( 100 pounds in 1851). The Crown ceased to appoint Members in 1857. The first House of Assembly (lower house) elections were in 1857 and all adult male British subjects could vote provided they had resided at a particular address for 6 months. Eligibility to vote for the upper House continued to have property restrictions. Property qualifications were removed in 1973. Non-British subjects were not entitled to vote unless they became naturalised. In 1894 women, 21 years and older, gained the right to vote in South Australia's lower House of Assembly, but had to meet the same property restrictions as men for the upper Legislative Council (freehold valued at 50 pounds in 1894).

Voting in Federal Elections

The first Federal election in 1901 was held under the electoral legislation applying in each state and used each state's electoral roll. After 1901 eligibility to vote in Federal elections differed from the states. In its Franchise Act of 1902, the first Commonwealth Parliament granted the right to vote to men and women who were British subjects 21 years or older who had at least 6 months residence. This franchise applied to both Houses of Federal Parliament and was free of property qualification. Excluded were 'lunatics and certain classes of criminals. Also excluded were Asians, Africans and Australian Aboriginal people'.

The Northern Territory was incorporated into SA in 1863. The Northern Territory Representation Act 1888 severed the Northern Territory from the electorate of Flinders, making it a separate two member seat. It was transferred to the Commonwealth in 1911.

Compulsory voting was introduced in 1924 for the Commonwealth and in 1942 for South Australian elections.

Indigenous Australian voting rights

Some South Australian indigenous men and women were already on the South Australian electoral rolls prior to 1901, and under Section 41 of the Constitution could therefore not be prevented from voting at federal elections. In practice very few Australian indigenous men and women were on South Australian electoral rolls as they either did not meet the residential requirement of residing at one address for a specific period of time or had not been encouraged to enrol. Most were not aware of their rights. However Point McLeay had a polling station in the 1890s.

No further South Australian indigenous people were entered onto the federal electoral rolls until 1949 and most South Australian Aboriginal people were not aware of their right to vote in federal elections until 1962. The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended in 1962 to grant all Australian indigenous people the vote. Enrolment was voluntary but once enrolled, voting was compulsory.

Compulsory voting was introduced in 1924 for the Commonwealth (except for Aboriginal people who had to wait until 1984) and in 1942 for South Australian elections.