The Playford government, in power since 1938, went into the 1962 elections in a precarious position. At the time the writs were issued, South Australia was dogged by a massive recession. This led observers to think that Labor would finally have a chance at power. Longtime opposition leader Mick O'Halloran had died suddenly in 1960, and Labor was led into the election by former deputy leader Frank Walsh.
Knowing that a statewide campaign was fruitless due to the Playmander − the rural overweighting that had kept the LCL in power for three decades − Walsh instead decided to target marginal LCL seats. In the election, Labor scored 54.3 percent of the two-party vote to only 45.7 percent for the LCL, a 4.6 percent swing to Labor. In most other states, this would have made Walsh premier with a landslide majority. However, due to the Playmander, the election resulted in a hung parliament. Labor won 19 seats, one seat short of a majority, while the LCL won 18 seats, two seats short of a majority. Even with this to consider, speculation was rampant on election night that Playford's long tenure was finally over.
The furore over the 1962 election illustrated how distorted the Playmander had become. By this time some two-thirds of the state's population resided in and around Adelaide, but they only elected one-third of the members of the legislature − at the 1968 election the rural seat of Frome had 4,500 formal votes, while the metropolitan seat of Enfield had 42,000 formal votes.