Front Page Titles (by Subject) Georgia: 75: Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Commons House of Assembly - Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History
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Georgia: 75: Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Commons House of Assembly - Donald S. Lutz, Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History 
Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History, ed. Donald S. Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1998).
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Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Commons House of Assembly
The text is taken from W. S. Jenkins and L. A. Hamrick, eds., Microfilm Collection of Early State Records, Georgia, B.2 Reel 1a, 1735–1772.
June 9, 1761
Established by charter in 1732, Georgia was initially governed by a board of trustees in London with no provision for either a governor or a legislature. An appointed governor was in place by 1743, but an assembly was not authorized until 1751, and even then it had no real power. In 1752 the trusteeship ended and Georgia reverted to a royal colony. At this point the Crown established institutions similar to those found in the other royal colonies. In 1761 the Georgia legislature passed the act in this document to define the electoral basis underlying their government. It is very similar to the act passed by South Carolina in 1721 . One feature of the present document is that it clearly describes a method of voting used throughout the colonies and reveals that votes were public rather than secret. It was not considered unusual for voters to be asked to “stand up and be counted.” The secret ballot was not widely used in America until the late nineteenth century. The precise definition and careful protection of the electoral process implies that the people are the foundation of government. The care taken here and in other colonial documents in this regard indicates that the concept of the electoral process is at least emerging, if not already accepted. One needs to remember that elections were rare in the world at this time, and rules for running them are in the process of being worked out in documents like this one.
Whereas the manner and form of choosing members of the Commons House of Assembly to represent the inhabitants of this province and the qualifications of electors and those elected members of the Commons House of Assembly has never yet been appointed, fixed, and determined by any law of this province. We, therefore, pray your most sacred Majesty that it may be enacted. And be it enacted by his Honor James Wright, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of this his Majesty’s province of Georgia, by and with the advice and consent of the honorable Council and the Commons House of Assembly of the said province in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the passing of this act all writs for the election of members of the Commons House of Assembly shall be issued out by the Governor or Commander-in-Chief for the time being with the consent of the Council and shall bear test forty days before the day appointed for the meeting of the said members and shall be directed to the provost marshal in the said writs to cause such elections to be made and to return the names of the persons elected to be members of the Commons House of Assembly. And the provost marshal is hereby empowered and required to execute such writ to him directed and, for the faithful and due performance of which according to the true intent and meaning of this act, the provost marshal shall cause public notice in writing to be affixed at one or more noted place or places in such parish, district, town, or village for which the election of a member or members by him is to be taken, at least ten days before the day of election, of the time and place where such election is by him to be taken.
ii. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every free white man, and no other, who has attained to the age of twenty-one years and has been resident in the province six months and is legally possessed in his own right of fifty acres of land in the said parish, district, town, or village for which the member or members is or are to be elected to represent in the General Assembly, shall be deemed a person qualified for electing a representative or representatives to serve as member or members of the Commons House of Assembly for the parish, district, town, or village wherein he is possessed of the above qualification.
iii. And for preventing frauds, as much as may be, in all elections, it is hereby enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that the returning officer shall come to the place at the time appointed by the public notice given and shall enter the names of every person presented or presenting himself as candidate, in a book or roll, leaving a fair column under each candidate’s name for the names of the voters, and when a voter comes and votes the returning officer shall repeat distinctly the person or persons’ names for whom the vote is given before he writes the voter’s name in the fair column under the name of such candidate or candidates as shall be voted for by that person, and that no voter shall alter his voice after it be entered or vote twice at one and the same election. And that the candidate or candidates who, after the poll is closed and the votes summed up, shall be found, upon scrutiny made if demanded, to have the majority of votes shall be deemed and declared to be a member or members of the succeeding Commons House of Assembly.
iv. And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that the time for taking votes at any election shall be between the hours of nine of the clock in the forenoon and six in the afternoon, and that at adjourning the poll, at convenient hours during the time of an election, the returning officer shall first sum up the votes given for each candidate and declare the same to the candidates present, and also declare the same when he has opened the poll at the ensuing meeting, and that the said election shall not continue longer than two days unless a scrutiny is demanded. Provided, nevertheless, that the returning officer is hereby empowered and required to close the poll when he or they have waited two hours after the last vote has been given, or at any time by and with the consent and desire of all the candidates then present.
v. And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every person who shall be elected and returned, as is before directed by this act, to serve as a member in the Commons House of Assembly of this province shall be qualified in the following manner, viz., that he shall be a free-born subject of Great Britain or of the dominions thereunto belonging, or a foreign person naturalized, professing the christian religion and no other, and that has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and has been a resident in this province for twelve months before the date of the said writ, and being legally possessed in his own right in this province of a tract of land containing at least five hundred acres.
vi. And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any member or members chosen or hereafter to be chosen to serve in this or any other Commons House of Assembly shall refuse to serve, or any member or members should die or depart this province, or shall be expelled the House, so that his or their seat or seats become vacant, then and in such case the House shall, by address to the Governor or Commander-in-Chief for the time being signify the same and desire that a new writ or writs may issue to elect a member or members to fill up the vacancy or vacancies in the House, and, in consequence of such address, a new writ or writs shall be issued to choose in that parish, district, town, or village such other member or members to serve in the place or places of such member or members whose seat or seats are become vacant, and every person so chosen and returned, as aforesaid, shall attend the Commons House of Assembly and shall be reputed, deemed, and judged a member thereof.
vii. And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any returning officer, as aforesaid, shall admit of or take the vote of any person refusing, at the request of one of the candidates or any two persons qualified to vote, to take the following oath, “I, A.B., do swear that I am legally possessed in my own right of a freehold estate of fifty acres of land in the township or district of , and that such estate is legally or bona fide in my own right and not made over or granted to me purposely or fraudulently to entitle me to vote at this election,” or at the request of any candidate or any two freeholders shall refuse to administer the following oath to any candidate who is hereby obliged to take this oath if so required, “I, A.B., do swear that I am in my own right truly and legally possessed of five hundred acres of land within this province and that the said right is truly and bona fide within myself and not fraudulently made over or granted to me for the purpose of qualifying me to be a representative in General Assembly,” or if the provost marshal shall make any fraudulent or shall influence or endeavor to influence or persuade any voter not to vote as he first designed, shall forfeit for each and every such offense the sum of fifty pounds sterling to be to his Majesty for defraying the expense of the sitting of the General Assembly and to be sued for and recovered in the general court of the province by bill, plaint, or information.
viii. And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that the provost marshall, or any person properly authorized by him to manage an election, as aforesaid, shall not return himself as a member to serve in General Assembly; and if the provost marshall refuses or neglects, on a summons from the Commons House of Assembly, to attend that House to inform them to the best of his knowledge of any matter or dispute that did arise or may have arisen about the election of the member or members by him returned to serve in Assembly, or refusing to show the poll taken, shall forfeit for every such offense fifty pounds sterling, to be applied and recovered as is herein before directed.
ix. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons whatsoever shall, on any day appointed for the election of a member or members to serve in the Commons House of Assembly, as aforesaid, presume to violate the freedom of the said election by any arrest, menace, or threats, or attempts to overawe, afright, or force any person qualified to vote, against his inclination or conscience, or otherwise by bribery obtain any vote, or who shall, after the election is over, menace, despitefully use, or abuse any person because he has not voted as he or they would have had him; every such person so offending, upon due and sufficient proof made of such his violence or abuse, menacing, or threatening, before any two justices of the peace, shall be bound over to the next general sessions of the peace, himself in twenty pounds sterling money and two sureties, each in ten pounds like money, and to be of good behavior and abide the sentence of the said court where, if the offender or offenders are convicted and found guilty of such offense or offences, as aforesaid, then he or they shall each of them forfeit a sum not exceeding twenty pounds sterling money and be committed to gaol without bail or mainprize till the same be paid. Which fine so imposed shall be paid as before directed.
x. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that no civil officer whatsoever shall execute any writ or other civil process whatsoever upon the body of any person qualified to vote for members of the Commons House of Assembly, as before in this act directed, either in his journey to or in his return from the place of such election, providing he shall not be more than forty-eight hours upon his journey either going to, returning from, or during his stay there upon that account, or within forty-eight hours after the scrutiny for such election is finished; under the penalty of a sum not exceeding twenty pounds sterling money, to be recovered of and from the officer that shall arrest or serve any process, as aforesaid, after such manner and form, and to be disposed of as herein before is directed. And all such writs or warrants executed on the body of any person going either to or being at, within the time limited by this clause, or returning from the place where such election is appointed to be managed, he being qualified to give his vote thereat, are hereby declared void and null.
xi. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that this act or any part thereof shall not extend to debar the Commons House of Assembly of the right to judge and determine, agreeable to the directions of this act, the qualifications of any member or members of that House, or to take away from the General Assembly, or any part thereof, any power or privilege whatever that any General Assembly, or part thereof, heretofore of right had, might, could, or ought to have had in the said province, anything herein contained to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding. Provided, always, that this act or any part thereof shall not be construed to take away the power and prerogative given the Governor or Commander-in-Chief for the time being from the Crown to adjourn, prorogue, or dissolve any General Assembly of this province when and as often as he shall think fit and expedient to do so, or to take away any other power or prerogatives whatever had from the Crown.
By Order of the Commons House of Assembly
By Order of the Upper House
In the Council Chamber, the 9th day of June, 1761.
Assented to: James Wright