The Auckland East electorate was established for the 1860-1861 elections, when the Auckland electorate was split in half. It consisted of most of modern Auckland's central business district. Its boundaries remained largely static until 1875-1876 elections, when the focus of the electorate shifted eastwards, making room for Auckland North electorate. It was abolished in the 1887 elections, with most of its territory being absorbed by the neighbouring Parnell electorate.
At the 1905 elections, a new electorate of the same name was created, again by abolishing a multi-member seat called City of Auckland. The boundaries of the new Auckland East were similar to those of the original, although its borders often shifted. By the 1938 elections, it had lost most of the central business district, and was more focused on Parnell, Newmarket, and Grafton. It was abolished in the 1946 elections, with most of its territory becoming part of a re-established Parnell electorate.
The first seat called Auckland East existed before political parties. The second seat was initially held by the Liberals, but later swung to the rising Labour Party, with the United Party (the Liberals' successor) capturing it only once after its initial loss. The seat also briefly belonged to the Reform Party, which captured it in a by-election but was unable to keep it.