Andrew Inglis Clark- From Intellectual To Champion Of Votes
by Stephanie Williams
After all this talk of voting in local elections, as well as by elections on the big island, did you know that one of Hobart’s own created the system that we use to vote in Tasmanian elections, way back in 1896? And now, the electoral area known as ‘Denison’ is set to change to ‘Clark’ for the next Federal election to honour Andrew Inglis Clark (1848-1907), one of the architects of the voting system we use in Tasmania.
Clark was a jack-of-all-trades listing barrister, politician and judge on his passport application. It’s been reported that he was a ‘delicate’ child and was consequently home-school by his month Ann until he hit Hobart High School. After school he joined the family engineering business (emerging as a qualified engineer no less!) but by the age of 24 the law was calling and he began his law studies in 1872.
By the 1870’s, Clark was intellectualising all over the place – writing poetry, establishing a journal Quadrilateral with his friends, supporting the establishment of UTAS, lecturing in law and even becoming the Vice-Chancellor of the university later on.
But back to voting. The system that Clark played a part in is called the Hare-Clark electoral system, name after Thomas Hare (1806-91) and Clark.
Hare was English and he came up with the idea of using a ‘single transferable vote’ sometimes known as preferential voting here in Australia. When Clark was Tassie’s Attorney-General, he introduced the system as a trial in Hobart and Launceston for the 1896 election and went so well it became the lay of the land. Clark did make his own tweaks to Hare’s original system by incorporating a ‘modified quota calculation’, which is a more precise way of working out the distribution of preferences from elected candidates.
The Hare-Clark system has been used continuously for Tasmanian state elections since 1909 for the House of Assembly, but the Legislative Council is elected by the same system used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives. Just to make things complicated! But it seems we were onto a good thing down here – the Hare-Clark System was adopted for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly in 1992.
Toward the end of his career, Clark was looked over not once but twice for a seat on the bench of the High Court of Australia and some of his poetry from this time reflects how annoyed he was about this. It seems even high achievers don’t quite get to tick off all their goals. ■