ID 1441

Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 5 October 1864

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Victoria, Legislative Assembly votes and seats won

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Election held on 5 October 1864
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)  74,998  100.00  0.00  78  16  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 74,998  100.00    78  16  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were on 5 and 21 October and 3 November 1864.

Premier in office at election: There had been two changes of Premier since the previous Legislative Assembly election in August 1861. The Heales government was returned with a slim majority, justifying Governor Barkly's grant of a dissolution of the Assembly based on the assessment that the Heales government was more popular in the electorate than suggested by its lack of support in parliament (Serle, p.307, see 'References', below). But the government's majority was precarious and only survived for two months after the election before the ministry was defeated in the Assembly; for details, see the notes to Heales's period in office.

O’Shannasy was commissioned as Premier on 14 November 1861 and, in spite of a ‘small and unreliable majority’ (see quotation in Waugh, p. 20 in ‘References’, below), managed to survive until June 1863 when his government was defeated on a matter of confidence; see the notes to O’Shannasy’s third period in office. McCulloch then became Premier with a cabinet that included former Premier Heales and three members of his cabinet; see notes to McCulloch’s first period in office. The parliament was prorogued in May 1864 and was dissolved in August 1864 at the expiry of its term for elections in October and November.

Government in office after election: Premier McCulloch had broad based support in the Assembly when it first met on 28 November 1864 after the Assembly elections. 'The results had been extremely favourable to the Ministry, for on the opening day no less than fifty-three members ranged themselves on the right of the Speaker, facing a forlorn party of fourteen on the left', Turner, p. 114, (see 'References', below). Serle notes that ‘[t]he Heales government had tasted the fruits of victory only briefly, but by its eventual boldness had forced new political groupings and the debate of new issues. When in mid-1863 four of its members [including Heales himself] joined McCulloch and Higinbothom, their supporters swept the polls [in 1864] and provided Victoria with its first stable ministry and the first to challenge the Council’, Serle, p. 308 (see ‘References’, below).

Note that, although the McCulloch government had the support of a large majority of members immediately after the election, the government is shown as 'Minority' in the table above because of the absence of party discipline and the fluid nature of factional politics during this period meant that the continuation of majority support was not guaranteed.

Electoral system and voting: The 1864 Legislative Assembly election was fought on the boundaries established by the Electoral Districts Act of 1858; 78 members were elected from 49 electoral districts, 24 of which were single member districts, 21 two member districts, and 4 three member districts and, 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. The implementation of voter registration proved controversial and was amended on four occasions between 1862 and the 1864 election; see 'Electoral results and sources', below.

Brief enfranchisement of female ratepayers: 'The 1863 Electoral Act (No. 168, 30 June 1863) enfranchised all ratepayers listed on municipal rolls for Legislative Assembly elections. In so doing, Victoria's parliamentarians overlooked the fact that local government legislation permitted female ratepayers to vote in municipal elections and that such women were therefore already listed on the municipal rolls. Consequently, and quite by accident, these women now had the vote -- which they proceeded to use in the general election of October and November 1864. ... Amid claims that the vote had been granted "inadvertently", the offending clause was hastily amended early in 1865'. Wright, p. 39, see 'Sources', below.

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) also provide summary enrolment and voting figures, some of which, for this election, differ significantly from Carr’s figures; where they differ from those in the tables above, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below. Jaensch and Hughes are the only source for the number of ballots cast at this election.

Carr does not provide electoral district enrolment figures for this election; for the table above, the figures are calculated from a document ('Electoral Registration', see ‘Sources’ below) prepared for the Legislative Assembly in 1864 listing electoral registration in each electoral district for 1863-4. The figures in the document, together with the number of ballots cast listed in Jaensch and Hughes produce an overall voter turnout of 46.7 percent which is significantly lower that the Jaensch and Hughes figure of 58.2 percent. But Jaensch and Hughes show 21 uncontested seats at this election in comparison with 16 for Carr.

There was a significant decline in enrolment between the 1861 and 1864 elections; this is shown in the 'Electoral Registration' document (see ‘Sources’, below) which lists the total number of electors on the Roll in in December 1862 as 178,632 but 125,278 in June 1864 (the figure used in the table above), a decrease of 53,354. This is likely to have resulted from the changes in the procedure for voter registration as a consequence of a series of Acts passed in 1862 and 1863; Suspension of Electors Registration Act, (May) 1862; Suspension of Electors Registration Act, (February) 1863; The Electoral Act, (June) 1863 [Registration of Electors and Elections Act]; and The Electoral Act Amendment Act, (September) 1863 (see ‘Victorian Historical Acts’, in ‘Sources’, below). These changes would go some of the way to explain the decline in the number of ballots cast and in the total number of votes at the 1864 election.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists), those favouring the Opposition, and those supporting neither, regarded as independents, affiliations that could change after the election; for comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period, see Wright, pp 63-72 (in 'Sources', below).

References: There are few secondary sources dealing specifically with the 1864 election, but Geoffrey Serle, The Golden Age: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1851-1861, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1963) provides a detailed history of issues and personalities at play in the period preceding this election, and note his Prologue pp 1-13 to his book The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria 1883-1889, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971). See also John Waugh, 'Haines, O'Shanassy, Nicholson and Heales: The Old Guard', in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, ch. 2, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019), and note Henry Gyles Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria from its Discovery to its Absorption in the Commonwealth of Australia, volume 2, (London: Longman Greens, 1904).

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, '1864', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 6 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;

Total on roll: 106,355
Number of uncontested seats: 21
Number of voters in uncontested seats: 26,126
Number of voters in contested seats: 80,229
Total ballots cast: 46,689
Turnout rate: 58.19%
Total valid votes: 101,811

Handwritten document ‘Legislative Assembly: Electoral Registration, 1863-4’, 12 pp, in SEOR/0232 [State Electoral Office Records], Large Ledger book with collection of Historical Records, 1856-1868, in File (Container) 'B14/84 (VEC WAREHOUSE ARCHIVE (Permanent Records))' .

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)