The Federal Election – 1910/2010

It was the 2010 Australian federal election that finally motivated me to create this blog, something I have wanted to do for several months.  During the day of the election I was reading newspaper accounts of the federal election held 100 years ago in 1910.  I have been in the habit of writing e-mails to my supervisor with odd snippets from my research and wrote one about the 1910 Federal election.  During one of my breaks I checked the latest post of one of my favourite blogs, The Resident Judge of Port Phillip.  The 2010 election had inspired the Resident Judge to share some stories from the New South Wales election of 1843.  Well I just had to share, so I posted some comments about 1910 on her site.  The Resident Judge asked if I was researching this for my blog.  I started to write another comment with excuses for the fact that I did not have a blog, when I thought, this is it.  I have got to stop being a ‘gunna’ (going to do it) and commit words to web.  So here ’tis…

In 2010 the polling booth staff and counters are largely anonymous, not so in 1910.  Not only were they named in the newspapers in 1910, but polling staff were assessed on their performance in counting the votes.  Mr. H. L. Archdall, returning officer for Rockhampton, had been ‘so complete’ in his organisation that the count was finished in ‘almost record time’.  “Mr. Archall certainly deserved credit for his smart performance’ said Rockhampton’s The Daily Record (14/4/1910, p. 6).  Pity the hapless presiding officer in Fortitude Valley.  The Brisbane Courier (14/4/1910, p. 5) said that the counting of the Valley votes were finalised at the Home Office, ‘Mr. Thornhill Weedon, the returning-officer being somewhat slow.’

This has made me ponder the organisation that goes behind elections in Australia.  If you are also curious, check out the Australian Electoral Commission website.  They explain how votes are counted here.  Unfortunately the only time we get to hear about the administration of elections is when something goes wrong, like it seems to have in the seat of McEwan on Saturday.  Yet the impression I have is that 99% of the time the Australian Electoral Commission does a good job of organising elections in Australia.

Continue reading