ID 1440

Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 2 August 1861

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General election for the Legislative Assembly
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
2 August 1861

Government in office and parliamentary support before and after the election

Government in office at election

Premier in office at date of election. (check notes to see if change of Premier since previous election)
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government at election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election.
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government after election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
Number of Assembly seats
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
Total valid votes
Rate of informal (invalid) voting
Not applicable
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Electoral system
Male franchise, plural voting, single and multimember districts (multiple voting), first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

Victoria, Legislative Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 2 August 1861
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'

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Party Name First preference vote n First preference vote share % Change from previous election % Seats won n Uncontested seats held n Seat share %
Independents (no disciplined party groupings)  113,006  100.00  0.00  78  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 113,006  100.00    78  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held over the period from 2 to 19 August 1861.

Premier in office at election: There had been two changes of Premier since the previous election in 1859; the O'Shanassy government in office at the 1859 election was defeated when the Legislative Assembly met two months after the election, and Nicholson became Premier in October 1859. After a nine month battle with the Legislative Council over a Land Act, the Nicholson government was defeated in the Legislative Assembly in November 1860 and Heales was commissioned as Premier; for more details and references, see the notes to O’Shanassy's second period in office and Nicholson's period in office .

The Heales ministry faced continuing difficulties with government finances, securing Assembly support for its legislation, and the opposition of the Legislative Council. Heales resigned his commission in February 1861 but was persuaded by Governor Barkly to return to office in February with a slightly changed ministry. In June 1861, the government was defeated in the Legislative Assembly and the Governor granted Heales's request and dissolved the Assembly for an election to be held in August; for more details and references, see the notes to Heales's period in office.

Government in office after election: After the Assembly elections of August 1861, the Heales government was returned with a slim majority, justifying Governor Barkly's grant of a dissolution of the Assembly based on the assessment that the Heales government was more popular in the electorate than suggested by its lack of support in parliament (Serle, p.307, see 'References', below). But the government's majority was precarious and only survived for two months before the ministry was defeated in the Assembly; for details, see the notes to Heales's period in office.

Electoral system and voting: The 1861 Legislative Assembly election was fought on the boundaries established by the Electoral Districts Act of 1858; 78 members were elected from 49 electoral districts, 24 of which were single member districts, 21 two member districts, and 4 three member districts and, for those with property in more than one electoral district, plural voting was permitted. Voters in multimember districts had the option of casting as many votes as there were members to be elected from their district (see multiple voting), or they could plump for a single candidate. Voters cast their ballots by crossing off the names of candidates they did not wish to elect, and the most chosen candidate or candidates were elected (plurality voting).

With manhood suffrage for the Legislative Assembly (but not the Legislative Council), all males over 21 years of age who fulfilled residency requirements were eligible to vote for the Assembly. Ratepayers were automatically registered as voters; non-ratepaters were registered by enumeration or separate application, with lists of voters required to be published (see the Registration of Parliamentary Electors Amendment Act 1859).

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from individual electoral district results listed in Carr’s online Election Archive (see ‘Sources’ below), compiled from official records and results published in newspapers (for the range of sources and problems with the data, see Carr’s ‘Introduction to Early Victorian Election Statistics', online here [accessed 28 June 2015]). Jaensch and Hughes (see 'Sources', below) also provide results for this election; where the summary voting figures from Jaensch and Hughes differ from those in the tables above derived from Carr, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below.

Carr does not provide electoral district enrolment figures or total ballots cast for this election and the summary figures in the 'Enrolment and voting' table above are taken from Jaensch and Hughes (see 'Sources', below) but, while Carr indicates 4 uncontested seats, Jaensch and Hughes show 7 which may affect figures for turnout. Overall, the number of voters may have declined by some 10,000 from estimates of the 1859 turnout, although the number of votes cast increased.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists), those favouring the Opposition, and those supporting neither, regarded as independents, affiliations that could change after the election; for comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period, see Wright, pp 63-72 (in 'Sources', below). Carr's online Election Archive provides details of the political orientation of some candidates at the time of the election as reported in contemporary newspapers (see ‘Sources’ below).

References: An extensive description of the second Victorian Parliament can be found in Geoffrey Serle, The Golden Age: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1851-1861, ch. 10, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1963), with a summary of the issues and personalities at play in the 1861 Legislative Assembly elections (pp 305-308) and a survey of the characteristics of Victorian politics from 1856 to 1861 (pp 315-319). See also John Waugh, 'Haines, O'Shanassy, Nicholson and Heales: The Old Guard', in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, ch. 2, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019).

A survey of the operation of the Victorian Parliament from 1856 to 1890 is provided in Wright, Part 2, (see 'Sources', below), and note that a comparison of the characteristics of members elected from 1856 to 1881 can be found in Joy E Mills, 'The Composition of the Victorian Parliament, 1856-1881', Historical Studies, Australian and New Zealand, 2 (5) April 1942.


Adam Carr, '1861', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 30 June 2015].

Dean Jaensch and Colin A Hughes, 'Politics', p. 399, in Wray Vamplew (editor), Australians: Historical Statistics, (Sydney: Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates, 1987, ISBN 0949288292); some of the listed results differ from those in the tables above; see the notes on 'Election results and sources', above;

Number of uncontested seats: 7
Total valid votes: 217, 638 (this figures may be the result of a typographical error since it is not possible for the total number of ballots cast (71,343) to produce this number of votes)

Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593);
Victoria, Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, 'Victorian Historical Acts', online here [accessed 9 June 2015].