§ 121. “Out of Parts of Different States.”

The Swiss Constitution similarly provides that federal electoral districts “shall in no case be formed out of parts of different Cantons.” (Art. 73.) In the American Constitution, under which representatives are chosen “by the people of the several States,” no electoral division could cross a State boundary; but in this Constitution, under which (following the Swiss example) representatives are to be chosen by “the people of the Commonwealth,” it was desirable that this should be explicitly stated. At elections of the House of Representatives, therefore, State boundaries are merely recognized as boundaries of groups of electoral divisions—not as separating one people from another. This is a further index of the national character of the Constitution, and of the existence of a national citizenship. (See Notes, § 27, “Federal,” supra.)

  ― 467 ―

Qualification of electors.

30. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualification of electors122 of members of the House of Representatives shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State as the qualification of electors of the more numerous House of Parliament of the State; but in the choosing of members each elector shall vote only once123.

UNITED STATES.— … the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.—Const. Art. I. sec. ii. subs. 1. CANADA.—Until the Parliament of Canada otherwise provides, all laws in force in the several Provinces at the Union relative to … the voters at elections of such members, … shall respectively apply to elections of members to serve in the House of Commons for the same several Provinces.—B.N.A. Act, 1867, sec. 41. SWITZERLAND.—Every Swiss who has completed twenty years of age, and who in addition is not excluded from the rights of a voter by the legislation of the Canton in which he is domiciled, has the right to vote in elections and popular votes. Nevertheless the Confederation may by law establish uniform regulations for the exercise of such right.—Const., Art. 74.

HISTORICAL NOTE.—In the Commonwealth Bill of 1891 the clause was as follows:—

“The qualification of electors of members of the House of Representatives shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State as the qualification for electors of the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State.”

In Committee, Mr. Deakin suggested that the Federal Parliament should have some power to fix a uniform qualification; but Sir Samuel Griffith urged the inconvenience of duplicating the electoral machinery, and thought that the States could be trusted here, as they were in America, to fix a democratic franchise. Dr. Cockburn moved to add:—

“But no property qualification shall be necessary for electors of the said House, and each elector shall have a vote for only one electoral district.”

This was criticized, partly as an interference with the States, which might endanger Federation in some colonies, and partly as involving difficulties of administration. After discussion. Dr. Cockburn withdrew his amendment to make room for a proposal by Mr. Barton that the Federal Parliament should have power to prescribe a uniform federal franchise. Mr. Baker feared that this would be an impediment to Federation; whilst Mr. Wrixon opposed it as being national rather than federal. It was urged in reply that the federal franchise was a national matter; but the amendment was negatived without division. Dr. Cockburn's amendment was then negatived by 28 votes to 9. (Conv. Deb., Syd. [1891], pp. 613–37.)

At the Adelaide session, 1897, the clause was introduced as it now stands, except that the concluding words were: “But in the choosing of such members each elector shall have only one vote.” The only debate was upon Mr. Holder's proposals for women's suffrage (see Historical Note, sec. 41). (Conv. Deb., Adel., pp. 715–32, 1193–7.) Similar amendments were made to those made in sec. 8 (Qualifications of electors of senators). (Id. pp. 1191, 1210.) At the Sydney session, a suggestion by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, to add “Provided that the Parliament may not enact that any elector shall have more than one vote,” was negatived as being unnecessary. (Conv. Deb., Syd., 1897, pp. 455–7.)