By-elections in South Australia

A by-election is held when a seat in the lower house of the South Australian Parliament, the House of Assembly, becomes vacant. A by-election only occurs in the electoral district in which the vacancy exists.

A seat may become vacant as a result of the retirement, death or resignation of a member of Parliament between state elections. A by-election can also occur if a member becomes ineligible to stand in the House of Assembly or if an election is declared void by the Court of Disputed Returns (Supreme Court).

When a by-election is held, only electors who live in that district vote. It is compulsory to vote if a by-election is held in your district.

As a by-election can occur at any time, it is important to keep your name and address up to date on the electoral roll.

On election day, the only polling places open for voting are those in the district where the by-election is being held. If you will be away from your district on election day, you can vote at an early voting centre beforehand or apply for a postal vote.

When you vote at a by-election you will receive only one ballot paper – a green House of Assembly paper. Complete the ballot paper by placing the number 1 in the square beside the candidate who is your first choice and continue by placing the numbers 2, 3, 4 and so on in the squares beside the other candidates in the order in which you prefer them. Place a number in every square.

Comparison: by-elections and general elections in SA

  By-elections General elections
When are they held? Can be called at any time. They occur when there is a House of Assembly vacancy. Every four years on the 3rd Saturday of March.
Who votes? Everyone on the electoral roll for the district in which the by-election is held. Everyone on the SA electoral roll.
Who is being elected? A member for the single House of Assembly seat for which the casual vacancy exists. Members for the 47 House of Assembly seats; and half the Legislative Council seats (11).
Ballot papers There is only one ballot paper – a green House of Assembly ballot paper.

There are 2 ballot papers:

• a green House of Assembly ballot paper

• a white Legislative Council ballot paper

Issue of Writ The Speaker of the House of Assembly issues the Writ which specifies the election date and timetable. The Governor issues the Writs which specify the election date and timetable.
District boundaries The district boundary is that which existed at the previous general election. House of Assembly district boundaries are those set at the electoral redistribution conducted by the Electoral District Boundaries Commission after the previous general election.

Frequently asked questions

Is voting compulsory?

Yes, if a by-election is held in the electoral district in which you are enrolled it is compulsory to vote. You may be fined if you do not vote.

When do by-elections occur?

By-elections can be called at any time, therefore it is important to enrol and keep your details up to date.

How often are by-elections held?

The incidence of House of Assembly by-elections is variable and unpredictable:

  • Between 1975 and February 2018 there have been 17 by-elections.
  • The most recent by-election was for the district of Davenport in January 2015.
  • Four other by-elections have been held since 2009, for the districts of Fisher in December 2014, Ramsay and Port Adelaide in February 2012, and Frome in January 2009.
  • Before that, there had not been a by-election since 1994 when three by-elections were held.

Are by-elections held for Legislative Council vacancies?

By-elections are not held to fill casual vacancies in the Legislative Council (upper house). Since 1973 Legislative Council casual vacancies have been filled by an assembly of the members of both Houses.

If the member whose seat has become vacant was a member of a political party when they were elected, that party nominates the replacement from amongst their own members.

Further information

Our Past state election results page includes results of by-elections held from 2009 onwards. Further information is available on our State and by-election reports page.