Election held on 28 February 1880
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)||223,541||100.00||0.00||86||2||100.00|
|Votes for other than listed parties||0||0.00||0.00|
Election date: Polling in all electoral districts at a general election for the Victorian Legislative Assembly were now held on the same day, a change introduced by the Electoral Act Amendment Act 1876, section 7.
Premier in office at election: Premier Berry had gained office for the second time at the general election for the Legislative Assembly in May 1877. ‘He swept the polls claiming some 60 of the 86 seats in the Assembly, the great bulk of government members formally aligned with the NPRL [National Reform and Protection League].’ Strangio, p. 57 (see ‘References’, below). ‘The [Berry] 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).
During the following three years, serious disputes between the government and the Legislative Council led to the Council’s refusal to pass an appropriation bill with a consequent blocking of government revenue, the dismissal in January 1878 of the colony’s most senior public servants, a scheme to circumvent the the Council’s veto over financial measures, and widespread public controversy over constitutional reform; for a survey of this period, see Wright, pp 84-90, (see ‘Sources, below), Strangio (see ‘References’, below) and for a personal view, note Deakin, ch. 2 (see ‘References’, below). These issues, together with economic recession, provided the background to the February 1880 elections.
Premier in office after election: The election was vigorously contested by the ‘Constitutional Party’ led by Service (see Lack, p. 76). The Berry ministry was defeated and Carr’s online Election Archive (see ‘Sources’, below) shows that some 45 candidates who were designated as ‘Opposition’ by the press were elected. While most of these were Constitutionalists, Service needed the support of a small Roman Catholic grouping for a slim majority in the Legislative Assembly (Strangio, p. 66, in 'References', below). Service was commissioned to form a government on 5 March 1880.
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. For this election, Carr's online Election Archive does not provide figures for enrolment in the two uncontested seats, or for the total number of ballots cast; the figures used in the table above for these categories are from Jaensch and Hughes.
Enrolment and the number of votes cast show increases over the 1874 election, and turnout increased to 67 percent.
Factions and political parties: Disciplined political parties had not yet emerged, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists) or those opposing the government for various reasons; 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). Wright comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period (see Wright pp 34-38, and 63-72, in 'Sources', below).
Wright also notes that, with Premier Berry's gaining office after the May 1877 Legislative Assembly election, partisan activities with some of the characteristics of parliamentary parties began to appear. 'Berry not only held this disparate [ministry] together, but did so with such skill that for the first time in the colony's history, a close approximation of party discipline was evident in the chambers. Whips organized attendance in the houses, tactics were discussed in caucus, questions and answers planned in advance -- in short an early form of party discipline was maintained, with a brief interruption, until mid-1881.' Wright, p. 84 (see 'Sources', below), The Assembly elections in February and July 1880 also marked the first time that successive governments had been established after winning majority support at an election and had lost office after defeat at a general election.
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 Paul Strangio, 'Broken Heads and Flaming Houses: Graham Berry, the Wild Colonial', ch. 4, and John Lack, 'Dr Jekyll and My Hyde? Service and Gillies: The Grand Coalition Premiers, 1883-1890', ch. 5, both chapters in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar, (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019). Alfred Deakin provides a colourful picture of his involvement in Victorian politics of the time in The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881: A Personal Retrospect, edited by J A La Nauze and R M Crawford, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1957).
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, '28 February 1880', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 14 August 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 contested seats: 210,034
Total valid votes: 222,585
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)