ID 1658

Parliament of South Australia, House of Assembly election

Election of 28 March 1870

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General election for the House of Assembly
South Australia
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
28 March 1870

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
House of 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
House of 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 at 21 years, two-member districts, first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

South Australia, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 28 March 1870
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)  26,767  100.00  0.00  36  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 26,767  100.00    36  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 28 March and 5 April 1870.

Premier in office at election: There had been three changes of Premier since the Ayers government had continued in office after the previous Assembly election in 1868. The government survived a motion of censure a week after the Parliament first met on 31 July 1868, but '... on 18 September 1868, the Assembly brought about the downfall of the Ayers Government by rejecting its proposal to amend the Waste Lands Act', Combe 2009, p.100 in 'Sources', below.

Hart was then commissioned to form a government but it lasted only 19 days. 'It met its Waterloo when, on 7 October the Assembly carried a resolution by 17 votes to 14 that the proposal by the Government [on land reform] ... ... was unsatisfactory to that House.' Combe 2009, p.100 in 'Sources', below.

After other attempts at forming a ministry had failed, Ayers was recalled to lead the government on 13 October 1868 but, after controversy over its land reform policy, the Ayers government was defeated in the Assembly. Ayers advised the acting Governor to dissolve the Assembly for a new election but, after initially agreeing with this proposal, the acting Governor decided that another attempt should be made to form a ministry. Ayers then resigned as Premier, and Strangways was called to form a government on 3 November 1868 (see Combe 2009, p.101 in 'Sources', below).

The Strangways government managed to pass a land reform bill through the Parliament in 1869 (the Waste Lands Act 1868-9) but faced continuing difficulty controlling the business of the Assembly so that, by early 1870 '... the Governor was advised by his Ministers that they desired to appeal from the Parliament to the people and recommended a dissolution accordingly.' Combe 2009, p.102 in 'Sources', below. In spite of strong opposition from many in the Assembly, an election was called for March 1870 (this election)

Premier in office after election: There was significant turnover in the members of the Assembly at this election in 1870; of the members elected at the previous Assembly general election in 1868, 9 were defeated and 14 did not recontest their seats. John Colton, one of the five members of the Strangways ministry was defeated at the Assembly election, and another, John Bagot had resigned from the Legislative Council. Before Parliament met after the election, Strangways restructured his ministry with three new members but, on 27 May 1870, the first day the new parliament met, a want of confidence motion in the ministry was passed by 27 votes to 6 (see Combe 2009, pp 102-103 in 'Sources', below). Hart was then commissioned to form a government which took office on 30 May 1870.

Although Strangways had restructured his ministry after the election, the defeat of the government on the first sitting day of the House of Assembly after the election shows that his loss of office was directly tied to the result of the general election.

Electoral system and voting: For discussion of the franchise and the qualification of members, see the note to the 1860 Assembly election.

This House of Assembly election in 1870 was governed by the Electoral Act of 1861 which, while keeping the bulk of the electoral administration set out in the previous Electoral Act of 1857-8 (including provision for the secret ballot in section 49), changed the way in which the 36 members of the House of Assembly were to be elected. Instead of a mix of single and multimember electoral districts, all members were elected from two-member districts. This required changing some electoral boundaries and a redistribution to accommodate the 18 two-member seats; note Combe 2009, pp 95-96 in 'Sources', below.

Voters in these two-member districts could choose to 'plump' by voting for only one candidate. Jaensch (see 'Sources', below) provides details for the number of plumped ballots at South Australian Assembly elections where figures are available.

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from the individual electoral district results for the 1870 Assembly election compiled by Jaensch from results published in newspapers (see Jaensch in ‘Sources’ below).

In this Assembly election (1870), 71 candidates sought election to the Assembly's 36 seats; this was he first time that all 18 electoral districts had been contested.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election. Once elected, '... each member of parliament was free to offer his support and make alliances in the ways best suited to serve his constituents, the welfare of the whole colony, or his own interest and ambition. Members did not divide on clear grounds of policy or principle.' Hirst, p.67 in 'References', below. The resulting pattern of shifting individual and factional alliance in the Assembly characterised South Australian politics until the 1880s. For a discussion of the nature and consequences of the absence of parties during this period, see Howell, pp 122-123, and Jaensch, 'South Australia', pp 249-251, both in 'References.

References: The nature of politics in South Australia during the period up to 1890 is covered by P A Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development, 1857-1890', in Dean Jaensch (editor), The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History, ch. 5, (Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986, ISBN 0949268518), and note Dean Jaensch, 'South Australia', in P Loveday, A W Martin, & R S Parker, (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, ch. 5, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035). Useful background can also be found in the section on 'Representation' (pp 65-75) in J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450).

A survey of government in South Australia from 1836 to 1957 is provided in Combe 2009 (see, 'Sources', below).


Dean Jaensch, History of South Australian Elections 1857-2006, Volume 1: House of Assembly, (Rose Park, South Australia: State Electoral Office, 2007, ISBN 9780975048634). Note that some of the figures calculated by adding the results from individual electoral districts listed for each Assembly election (those used in the tables above) may differ from the summary figures provided in Jaensch's table, 'House of Assembly: Enrolment and Turnout', in Appendix 1, p.358.

Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, (Adelaide: Government Printer, 1957); reprinted [with changed pagination] as Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, Volume 1, From Foundations to Playford, (Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2009, ISBN 9781862548435); also available online through Google Books, here. Page references in the text above are to the 2009 edition.