The House of Assembly was created in 1857, when South Australia attained self-government. The development of an elected legislature — although only men could vote — marked a significant change from the prior system, where legislative power was in the hands of the Governor and the Legislative Council, which was appointed by the Governor.
In 1894, the House of Assembly granted women the right to vote – the second place in the world to do so after New Zealand in 1893 – and the first to allow women to stand for election.
The House of Assembly has had 47 members since 1970, each coming from a single-member constituency: 35 in the Adelaide area and 12 in rural areas. These are commonly known as seats, and are intended to represent approximately the same population in each electorate. Voting is by preferential voting with complete preference allocation, as with the equivalent federal chamber, the Australian House of Representatives. All members face re-election approximately every four years. The most recent election was held on 15 March 2014.
Most legislation is initiated in the House of Assembly. The party or coalition with the most seats in the lower house is invited by the Governor to form government. The leader of that party becomes Premier of South Australia, and their senior colleagues become ministers responsible for various portfolios. As Australian major party MPs almost always vote along party lines, almost all legislation introduced by the governing party will pass through the House of Assembly.
As with the federal parliament and Australian other states and territories, voting in the Assembly is compulsory for all those over the age of 18. Voting in the House of Assembly had originally been voluntary, but this was changed in 1942.