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The Australian federation referenda

Here is a map of the results of the federation referenda held in the late 19th century, broken down by state electorate. (Boundaries are not accurate, and there are some small errors in the numbers here and there.) Move your mouse over or tap on an electorate to see its results. Red is against federation; blue in favour; white is 50/50.

Show results for 1898 1899-1900.

Electorate
Yes % No %
- - - -

Two sets of referenda were held to decide on federation. The first set, held in 1898 in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, won a majority in favour of federation in all of those states (only just in NSW: 51.95%), but the total number of "Yes" votes in NSW was short of the 80,000 requirement. After some changes to the proposed Commonwealth Bill, the second set of referenda were held in 1899 in all states except for Western Australia, who got around to organising it in 1900.

For the map, I assigned a point location to each electorate, which should usually be close enough, and asked QGIS to draw Voronoi polygons around them (which it didn't do properly, but it's OK). It would not surprise me if my inner-city Sydney electorates are mixed up a little, and in testing I found that my code had moved Leichhardt (Qld) from up near Emerald down to the south-east corner (I fixed that one, but there could be other, less obvious anomalies). Despite the roughness of the procedure and likely errors, regional patterns are very visible.

Tasmania had a redistribution between the referenda, involving creating and abolishing one or two electorates. To avoid making two geoJSON objects, I just put all the Tasmanian electorates in together and so it's wrong in both years.

These electorate-level results are surely in some printed book somewhere, but I didn't know where to look for them. Instead I searched old newspapers on Trove. Specifically,

(In some cases, when the print was too hard to read or the numbers didn't tally, I compared to other newspapers.)

I couldn't find the final results for Victoria, and the numbers don't tally with the provisional totals in the newspapers (I've lost a thousand or so votes); I've also gained 100 votes relative to the newspaper totals in WA, which in turn are different from the final results in modern publications; other discrepancies are small.

I've put the CSV of the results here.

Posted 2015-03-08.


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