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A Vote for All?

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People at the ballot box

Our right to choose
People at the ballot box

 

From 1829 to 1890, the ability to participate actively in government had been gradually extended from only the Governor to all men who owned or leased property of a certain value.

At the time of the proclamation of the Constitution in 1890, only those men who
owned or leased property of a high value could vote. This effectively excluded most people.

It took a series of reforms, some as recently as 1970, to extend voting rights to all people over 18 years of age. 

"There are about 60,000 persons at present in the colony, and only 5,900 voters, and looking at the vast extent of this colony and the large proportionate number of statute males, it seems to me that 5,900 would not be the whole number of the voters in this immense colony... and that there should be a greater proportion of the adult males upon our electoral rolls..."

Sir John Forrest, 17 July 1893

In 1893, the Western Australian Parliament introduced voting rights for all men so that every non Aboriginal man over the age of 21 had the right to vote for the Legislative Assembly irrespective of property qualifications. In practice, many were still prevented from voting by other restrictions, such as the length of stay in one place, which effectively disqualified gold miners who moved around frequently.

In the 1890s, constitutional reforms gave the vote to all men, and then all women.

Aboriginal people were excluded from voting unless they owned property. They had to wait until 1962 to acquire full voting rights, by which time they were entitled to vote in both State and Federal elections.