ID 1664

Parliament of South Australia, House of Assembly election

Election of 19 March 1887

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)
19 March 1887

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
Conservative Ministerialists
House of Assembly support for government at election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier's party affiliation
Liberal Ministerialists
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

South Australia, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 19 March 1887
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)  47,429  100.00  0.00  52  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 47,429  100.00    52  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 19 and 22 March, and 2, 6, and 21 April 1887.

Premier in office at election: Two premiers (Colton and Downer) had substantial periods in office leading up to the Assembly election in 1887 (this election). On the second day of the new parliamentary session after the previous Assembly election in April 1884, an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply was moved by John Colton against Bray's ministry that had been in office before the election. 'The outcome was the defeat of the [Bray] Government by a majority of six.' Combe 2009, p.117 in 'Sources', below. Colton was commissioned to form a government on 16 June 1884. This was the third time in succession that there had been a change of government once the new Assembly had met after an election.

After a year in which important taxation and property legislation had been passed by the Colton government (see Combe 2009, p.118 in 'Sources', below), Downer moved an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on 9 June 1885. 'During the debate members voiced their displeasure at the Government's action in sending troops to the Sudan without the sanction of Parliament. The debate raged over three sitting days and after midnight on the night of 11-12 June the amendment was carried by a majority of four and the Colton Government resigned later the same day.' Combe 2009, p.118 in 'Sources', below.

Downer was commissioned to form a government on 16 June 1885 and remained in office for almost two years, leading the government at the House of Assembly election in March 1887 (this election).

Premier in office after election: Premier Downer had been attending an Imperial Conference in London during the election in March and the first meeting of the Assembly in June. Dissatisfaction at his absence prompted Playford to move a no confidence motion in the ministry which was supported in the Assembly; Bray, the acting Premier during Downer's absence, tendered the government's resignation. Playford was then commissioned to form a government on 11 June 1887 (see Combe 2009, pp 118-119 in 'Sources', below.

Electoral system and voting: Most of the rules governing elections had been consolidated in the Electoral Act of 1879 but the Constitution Amendment Act of 1882 had increased the number of members of the House of Assembly by six to 52, elected from 26 two-member electoral districts.

Voters in multimember 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 1887 Assembly election compiled by Jaensch from results published in newspapers (see Jaensch in ‘Sources’ below). In this Assembly election (1887), 105 candidates sought election to the Assembly's 52 seats. Two of the 26 electoral districts were uncontested; this resulted in 4 candidates being elected unopposed.

Factions and political parties: The pattern of shifting individual and factional alliances in the Assembly that had characterised South Australian politics and had prompted the frequent turnover in governments, had began to change after the 1881 election. Members still contested elections as independents but saw themselves as linked to other candidates by their support for a particular premier or government. The label ministerialist can be used to describe this form of pre-party organization and the labels 'conservative' or 'radical' (liberal) began to be loosely attached to some members of these groupings. These loose associations could form the basis for governments that stayed in office for substantial periods. For discussion of these issues, see 'References', below.

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). See 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.