Election held on 11 May 1877
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'
|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)||181,805||100.00||0.00||86||4||100.00|
|Votes for other than listed parties||0||0.00||0.00|
Election date: This was the first time that polling in all electoral districts at a general election for the Victorian Legislative Assembly were held on the same day, a change introduced by the Electoral Act Amendment Act 1876, section 7.
Premier in office at election: There had been three changes of Premier since the previous Legislative Assembly election in March and April 1874 at which the Francis ministry had been returned. Premier Francis was forced to resign in July because of illness and Kerford was commissioned to form a government on 31 July 1874; for details of this transition, see the notes and references to Kerford's period in office.
After a year in office, the Kerford government’s budget proposed a number of new taxes and tax increases, prompting an erosion of government support and possible defeat in the Assembly. Kerford requested a dissolution, and when this was refused by the acting governor, Sir William Stawell, Kerford resigned with effect from 7 August 1875. Berry was then commissioned as Premier but he too resigned within three months over the lack of support in the Assembly for budget provisions which included a tax on large estates; for details, see the notes and references to Berry's first period in office.
In spite of Berry’s request for the dissolution of the Assembly, McCulloch was commissioned on 20 October 1875 for his fourth period in office as Premier. The government had difficulty in passing its legislative program through the Assembly (see following note), but hung on to office until the election in May 1977.
Premier after election: '... [McCulloch's] government was opposed by Berry and his supporters, outraged at the acting governor's refusal to dissolve the Assembly when they fell victim to McCulloch, and determined to obstruct Parliament and damn McCulloch as a conservative ogre until an election was called. The government needed new revenue, and McCulloch ... proposed, not Berry's land tax on big estates, but other means, including, for the first time in Australia, an income tax. Opposition to this last proposal, which protectionists thought would lead to lower tariffs, cut the government's majority to three and it withdrew the bill [note omitted]. McCulloch fought to get the rest of his legislative program through the refractory Assembly ... but the election could be postponed only until the end of the three-year term. When it came [in May 1877], he suffered "complete and irrevocable extinction" in the Berry landslide. [note omitted]' Waugh, p.36 (see 'References', below).
'Berry finally returned to power on 21 May 1877. His second ministry was as radical and contemptuous of the "wealth lower orders" (Higginbotham's cutting phrase) as any before it. ... The ministry's goals were contentious: increased protection; extensive land taxation; affirmation of compulsory, secular education; constitutional reform. Its target was the Legislative Council. Its weapon was payment of members. Its energizing, unifying force was Berry.' Wright, p. 84 (see 'Sources', below).
Electoral system and voting: The Electoral Act Amendment Act of 1876 increased the number Legislative Assembly seats from 78 to 86 and the number of electoral districts from 49 to 55, 29 of which were single member districts, 21 two member districts, and 5 three member districts. As in previous elections, 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.
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), which are 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) provide summary voting figures, some of which differ from Carr’s figures; where they differ from those in the tables above, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below.
Enrolment and the number of votes cast show increases over the 1874 election, and turnout increased marginally to around 63 percent.
There were no disciplined political parties at this election, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists) or those opposing the government for various reasons; for comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period, see Wright, pp 34-38, and 63-72 (in 'Sources', below). Carr's online Election Archive provides details of the political orientation of candidates for each district at the time of the election as reported in contemporary newspapers (see ‘Sources’ below).
References: For a study of the Victorian parliament in this period, see, Wright, ch. 5 (see 'Sources', below), and note the 'Prologue' in Geoffrey Serle, The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1883-1889, pp 1-13 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971). For a review of the politics during this period , see John Waugh, ' ''The Inevitable McCulloch" and his Rivals, 1863-1877', ch. 3 and Paul Strangio, 'Broken Heads and Flaming Houses: Graham Berry, the Wild Colonial', ch. 4, both chapters in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar, (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (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, '1877', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 31 July 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;
Voters on roll in uncontested seats: 6,772
Voters on roll in contested seats: 174,669
Total ballots cast: 112,890
Total valid votes: 183,594
Victoria, Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, 'Victorian Historical Acts', online here [accessed 9 June 2015].
Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593)