ID 1659

Parliament of South Australia, House of Assembly election

Election of 14 December 1871

Show only vote and seat summary details

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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)
14 December 1871

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, single and multimember districts, first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

South Australia, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 14 December 1871
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)  23,382  100.00  0.00  36  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 23,382  100.00    36  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 14 December 1871, except for the electoral district of Flinders where the election was held on 27 December 1871.

Premier in office at election: There had been a change of Premier since Hart had been commissioned to form a government on 30 May 1870 following the defeat of the Strangways government on the first sitting day of Parliament after the previous Assembly election in March 1870. The Hart government remained in office until November 1871 until defeated on a want of confidence motion on 3 November. After some difficulty in finding a member who could lead a ministry, Blyth '... succeeded in forming a Government with four of the five Ministers out of Hart's Cabinet, and he proposed to follow the former Government's policy.' Combe 2009, p.103 in 'Sources', below.

Within a week, a motion of no confidence was passed in the Assembly on the casting vote of the Speaker (see Combe 2009, p.103 in 'Sources', below). 'Believing that no valid reason had been assigned for a change in Ministry, that the country would not endorse the action of the House, and, further, that it was impossible for a strong government to be formed with the parties so evenly balanced as they were, Blyth advised the Governor to dissolve the House of Assembly, counsel which His Excellency acted upon ...' Combe 2009, p.103 in 'Sources', below.

The House of Assembly was dissolved on 23 November 1871 for Assembly elections in December 1871 (this election), less than two years after the previous election.

Premier in office after election: Only 17 of the 36 members of the Assembly were returned at the general election in December 1871. On the first day Parliament met after the election, James Boucaut proposed a motion in the Assembly with the effect of expressing disapproval of the Blyth government's advice to the Governor for the dissolution of the Assembly for the December 1871 elections. The motion passed 19 to 17 and the Blyth government was forced to resign. After some difficulties, Ayers was commissioned to form a government on 22 January 1872 (for more details of this episode, see Combe 2009, p.103-104 in 'Sources', below).

The defeat of the government on the first sitting day of the House of Assembly after the election -- a situation that occurred after the previous election in 1870 -- shows that Blyth's 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 1871 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 1871 Assembly election compiled by Jaensch from results published in newspapers (see Jaensch in ‘Sources’ below).

In this Assembly election (1871), 64 candidates sought election to the Assembly's 36 seats. One of the 18 electoral districts (2 seats) was uncontested, resulting in 2 candidates being elected unopposed. Although the number of votes is recorded for the 4 candidates who contested the electoral district of Flinders, no figures are provided for the number of ballots cast; as a consequence, the results for total ballots cast, turnout, and informal (invalid) ballots shown in the 'Enrolment and Voting' table above are for 16 of the 17 contested districts.

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). A study of South Australian society and politics from 1870 to 1890 can be found in the first 3 chapters of J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450). Note also 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).

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.