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1856 Tasmanian Electoral Act

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Enrolling the People


The Development of Modern Electoral Administration
a postgraduate project of the ANU and the Electoral Council of Australia 
funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council.

Shifting the Costs from candidates and electors to the government

It is accepted practice today for governments to pay the cost of elections, but it wasn't always so. Australian electoral apparatus inherited from the 'mother country' (England) in the 1840s and 1850s were based on the 1832 Reform Act, which itself was the first time the UK 'codified' its electoral roll. Under these arrangements, collectors - who made the rolls - were paid by people who wanted to get on to the roll, say a shilling a man. (They, or whoever had the roll at the time, could also sell copies.) Payment of returning officers and other costs of elections were incurred by candidates. (There were provisions for 'incidental' expenses, that came from both the county and central governments.) 

The 1843 NSW LC Act, Australia's first electoral Act, had the state paying everything, full stop. The franchise, however, was limited. The colonies of Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia got 'responsible government' in the mid 1850s, and within a few years each was using the Australian Ballot, and all but Tassie had close to full male suffrage. Election costs therefore went through the roof, and governments were generally left to pick up the bill.

(South Australia (alone?) actually began in 1851with the British practice, described above, but in 1853 shifted costs to the state. But unlike the others, amounts were prescribed in the Act, eg one shilling was still to go to collectors for each new name, but the money would come from Treasury rather than the individual. It kept the 'others expenses' provision, but successfully curtailed expenses in 1858 by getting rid of 'other expenses' and nailing down every single possible election cost.)

All of this were very Benthamite things to do; they could also be seen as symptom of governments that were not, at the time, considered particularly careful with money (an Australian characteristic - at least in perceptions - that would remain for well over a century).

The (beginnings of the) table below shows when jurisdictions around the world shifted costs for elections onto the state. Clicking on the year gives a popup with further explanation, including sources etc.

It is a work in progress and contains notes to myself. Comments, corrections and suggestions appreciated.


NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas NZ Canada UK Belgium?
1843!!? 1851!! 1859 1870 1853 1856     ?????