This act ended the tradition, begun in 1692, of holding all elections for the Commons House of Assembly in Charleston. The reform allowed members to be chosen from their own parishes and saved voters the “great expense of time and money” required to travel to the city. It was also designed to help prevent “the bad effects” that had long plagued elections in Charleston, including rioting, beatings, and election fraud. In addition, it reduced the political influence of the city and the two men who controlled it, Nicholas Trott and William Rhett.
The act laid out voting requirements and electoral districts. Each candidate for the Commons House of Assembly was required to reside in the area he was to represent and to be worth £500 currency or possess an equal amount of land. A voter had to be male, white, Christian, twenty-one years of age, at least six months in residency, and worth £30. Voting was managed by the wardens of each Anglican parish church. In the event that a delegate should die or fail to qualify for office between election and the seating of the assembly, the governor and the council could issue writs for another election. Assemblymen vied for thirty seats. The city of Charleston, St. Paul’s, and St. Andrew’s contained four each, with St. Thomas and St. Denis, St. Bartholomew’s, St. Helena’s, St. James Goose Creek, and St. John’s having three apiece. Christ Church was granted two and St. James Santee one. Sixteen assemblymen comprised a quorum.
Although popular among Carolinians, the 1716 act was disallowed by the Lords Proprietors in an attempt to reestablish their authority in the colony. In 1721 the Commons House passed a slightly modified Election Act that, with minor revisions, established election procedures in South Carolina until the Revolutionary War.
Cooper, Thomas, and David J. McCord, eds. The Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 10 vols. Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1836–1841.
Sirmans, M. Eugene. Colonial South Carolina: A Political History, 1663– 1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966.