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Electors.

Section 30. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, 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 of electors of the more numerous House of Parliament of the State; but in the choosing of members each elector shall vote only once.

Section 8. The qualification of electors of senators shall be in each State that which is prescribed by this Constitution or by the Parliament as the qualification for electors of members of the House of Representatives; but in the choosing of senators each elector shall vote only once.

On these sections the following observations may be made:

1. In sec. 30, the words, “until the Parliament otherwise provides,” carry under sec. 51, art. xxxvi., the power to provide from time to time.

2. The reference to the more numerous House of Parliament of the State is taken from the United States Constitution, where the federal franchise is regulated by the provision that “the electors in each State shall have the qualification requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.” In those States of the Commonwealth in which both Houses are elective, the law of the State has fixed the number of representatives in each House, and has always provided that the Lower House shall contain a number of members which is substantially larger than that in the Upper House. In New South Wales and Queensland the Upper House is nominated, not elected, and the number of members is by law unlimited. The present electoral qualifications in the States vary considerably. In


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all the States electors must be British subjects, 21 years of age or over, and there are certain conditions of residence.

New South Wales (Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act, 1893).—Manhood suffrage, the elector voting in the division of the electoral district in which he resides.

Victoria (Constitution Act Amendment Act, 1890 and 1899).—Manhood suffrage, the elector voting in the district in which he resides; all persons on the ratepayers' roll; freehold property of the value of £50 or of the annual value of £5. Since 1899, though a person may be on the roll in various electoral districts, in virtue of his various qualifications, and entitled, therefore, to vote in any one of them, he may not vote more than once.

Queensland (The Elections Acts, 1885 to 1897—a consolidation).—Manhood suffrage, the elector voting where he resides. Leasehold occupation, or freehold or leasehold estate, or pastoral licence of specified value. An elector may vote in any number of electoral districts in which he may have a qualification, but not more than once in any particular district.

South Australia (Electoral Code, 1896).—Adult suffrage, the elector voting where he resides.

Western Australia (Constitution Acts Amendment Acts, 1899 and 1900).—Adult suffrage; freehold, leasehold, household, or Crown lease or licence of certain value, exerciseable as in Queensland.

Tasmania (Constitution Amendment Act, 1896, No. 2; Electoral Act, 1896, and Electoral Continuation and Amendment Act, 1899).—Men in receipt of income of £40 a-year have a vote in the district in which they reside; ratepaying qualifications exerciseable wherever the qualification exists.

3. The provision that in the choosing of members each elector shall vote only once, seems clearly to run throughout the Commonwealth and to prohibit an elector from voting more than once, whether in the same State or in different State.

4. There is room for some doubt whether the provisions


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of sec. 30 against plural voting applies to the suffrage under a law of the Commonwealth Parliament as well as to a State law. It is not clear whether the controlling words are “Until the Parliament otherwise provides” or “but in the choosing of members each elector shall vote only once.” It is submitted that the latter words govern the power of the Parliament. The similar prohibition in sec. 8 regarding the Senate clearly binds the Parliament, and by the section the Constitution has prescribed uniformity in the qualifications of electors for the two Houses.

5. In speaking of the qualification “which is prescribed by the law of the State,” does the Constitution mean the qualification as prescribed from time to time? The provision of the United States Constitution certainly does mean that; but in the United States the federal suffrage is treated as a matter for State regulation, and Congress has no power over it, save under the Amendments, to prevent abuses by the State. In the Commonwealth the suffrage is treated as a national matter, and in the absence of any words of futurity (such, for instance, as are contained in section 31, the “laws in force in each State for the time being”), it is reasonable to suppose that the qualification referred to is that existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth.

If this view be correct, section 41, which imposes an important limitation upon the power of the Parliament, is shorn of some of its difficulties. Section 41 provides that “No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.” As has been seen, two of the States— South Australia and Western Australia—have adopted adult suffrage, in which they followed the lead of New Zealand, also a possible State. “Women's suffrage,” too, was being strongly pressed upon the Legislatures of New South Wales and Victoria. Accordingly, a concession was


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made to the States, which should, in its political operation, facilitate the adoption in regard to each State of its own policy. For it is clear that the preservation of rights in States where they have been acquired will more readily reconcile those States to a Commonwealth law which accords with the policy of those States which have not adopted women's suffrage.

If the true construction of section 30 be the “law in force in each State at the establishment of the Commonwealth,” then under section 41 any person who at that time has, or who at any time afterwards acquires a right under that law to vote for the more numerous House of the State Parliament, may vote in federal elections, whatever law be established by the Commonwealth Parliament. If, on the other hand, section 30 means laws enacted by the State Parliament at any time before the establishment of a federal franchise by the Commonwealth Parliament, section 41 presents some difficulties of construction.note It would probably mean has at the establishment of the federal franchise or acquires at any time afterwards under a State law in force at the establishment of the federal franchise.




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