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History of voting in NSW

On 15 June 1843, voters elected 24 members of the Legislative Council. A further 12 members were appointed by the Governor, Sir George Gipps.

The franchise for the 1843 elections did not reflect the standards we now expect in a modern democratic election. Voting was restricted to males over the age of 21, and only those males who owned property worth at least £200 or rented a house for £20 or more per year. Women, Aboriginal people and men of limited means were not entitled to vote.

All Australian citizens now have the right, and responsibility, to enrol and vote when they reach 18 years of age, regardless of gender, wealth or ethnicity.

  1. 1823

    • Legislative Council of five appointed members established to advise the Governor.
  2. 1843

    • Elections Branch in the Chief Secretary’s Department conducts the first election of 24 representatives to the NSW Legislative Council.
  3. 1856

    • New bicameral Parliament established following a revision of the Constitution Act 1855.
  4. 1889

    • Payment for members of Parliament was introduced.
  5. 1893

    • Principle of ‘one man, one vote’ enshrined. Candidates limited to running in one electorate per election.
  6. 1901

    • Federation.
  7. 1902

    • Women’s Franchise Act 1902 gives women the right to vote in State elections.
  8. 1912

    • Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 enacted.
  9. 1918

    • Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 gives women the right to become members of the Legislative Assembly.
  10. 1928

    • The office of Electoral Commissioner established.
    • Preferential voting for the Legislative Assembly introduced.
  11. 1929

    • Compulsory voting introduced in New South Wales.
  12. 1933

    • Legislative Council of 60 members created by referendum. Members elected by both Houses of Parliament.
  13. 1962

    • Amendment to Commonwealth Electoral Act gives Indigenous Australians the right to vote in all State and Commonwealth elections.
  14. 1978

    • Legislative Council reform reduces membership to 45 seats.
  15. 1979

    • Compulsory preferential voting system modified to allow optional preferential voting.
  16. 1981

    • Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 enacted.
  17. 1991

    • Legislative Council reduced to 42 members.
  18. 1995

    • Fixed terms for State elections introduced. Elections to be held on the fourth Saturday in March every four years.
  19. 2003

    • Local government elections fixed to be held on the fourth Saturday in September every four years after 2004.
  20. 2014

    • Three-member Electoral Commission established. The NSW Electoral Commission given responsibility for administering the lobbyists register.
  21. 2017

    • Power given to the NSW Electoral Commission to investigate and prosecute offences under the Local Government Act 1993.
    • Electoral Act 2017 enacted, replacing the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912.
  22. 2018

    • Electoral Funding Act 2018 enacted, replacing the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.