The Constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic/Rules of franchise. The Constitutional Court
RULES OF FRANCHISE.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
By V. JOACHIM.
ELECTIONS TO THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES.
(Act of Parliament of 29. February 1920 No. 123. Code of Laws and Regulations.)
There are 23 parliamentary Constituencies, the smallest of which elect 6 members, the largest (Prague) 45.
The right to vote is enjoyed by every citizen who has attained the age of 21 years and who is entered on the standing List of Voters (see below).
A voter has the right to vote only in one constituency and must record his vote in person.
Any citizen of the Czechoslovak Republic, irrespective of sex who on the day of election has attained the age of 30 years may be elected deputy, provided that he (or she) has been a Czechoslovak citizen for at least three years and has not been legally deprived by the Court of the right to vote.
Every voter entered upon the List of Voters is obliged to vote: an exception, however, is made in favour of persons 70 years of age and over, sick persons etc. (whoever without reasonable grounds of excuse fails to take part in an election is liable to a fine of 20 to 5000 crowns or to a term of imprisonment varying from 24 hours to one month).
Twenty—one days at the latest, before the election day and not later than 12 o’clock noon the various political parties present before the Chairman of the Election Committee of the Constituency, their lists of Candidates. Such lists are only valid if they are attested by the officially confirmed signatures of at least 100 voters whose names appear on the List of Voters for the particular constituency.
To each list of candidates there must be annexed a written declaration, personally signed by all the candidates, to the effect that they accept their nomination as candidates and that their names do not appear with their consent on any other list of candidates and that they have not been nominated in any other constituency.
The Election Committee of the Constituency examines the lists of candidates to see if they conform to the formalities prescribed and to amend them, if necessary, with the assistance of representatives of the political parties.
Fourteen days at the least before the election day the Chairman of the Election Committee publishes in the official journals of the constituency all the valid lists of candidates, indicating the parties, the election number assigned to each, and giving a complete and exact designation of each candidate.
The lists of candidates are then printed in the form of ballot papers, all having the same type and the same size of lettering, being printed on paper of the same colour and form and having the seal of the Election Committee of the constituency affixed to them all in the same place.
The Chairman of the Election Committee of the constituency sends the papers to the local authorities in each community with the request to place them in the hands of the electors three days at the latest before the day of election.
The cost of printing the ballot papers is met as follows: Up to the 31st of December 1924 the State pays two-thirds and the political parties one-third; after the 31st of December 1924 the State pays one half and the parties one half.
A party may, however, declare that it does not desire its list of Candidates (ballot papers) to be sent in the official way, to the voters of certain districts or indeed of the whole constituency, and may at the same time for these districts or for the whole constituency order a definite number of official ballot papers and place them itself in the hands of the electors.
If a party does not deposit at the proper time a certain sum on account to meet the expenses of printing, it is assumed that the party has withdrawn its list and retired from the election.
Printers or persons employed in the printing trade are obliged to carry out the orders of the Chairman of the Election Committee of any constituency issued for the purpose of getting the ballot papers duly printed in good time.
Every township is a place of poll. Elections take place on Sundays, polling commencing at 8 o’clock a. m.
On the day before the elections, and on the polling day itself it is prohibited to sell or to serve drinks containing alcohol.
The elections take place under the direction of a local electoral committee composed—as all other committees are, which assist at elections—of representatives of the various parties.
It is the duty of the electoral committee to make sure that every voter in their district is in possession of all ballot papers which the authorities ought to deliver to him and to see that they are free from erasures or markings of any kind. Where papers are lacking, or have suffered erasure or been marked in any way, the Committee sees to the recipients getting others, so that the voter shall have all the lists of candidates in so far as they should have been delivered to him officially.
The voter receives, further, an official envelope. Every envelope is of the same size, quality and colour, and may not carry any distinguishing mark.
The voter himself places the ballot paper in the envelope. He does this in a booth so arranged that no one can see him and afterwards in the presence of the electoral committee, puts the envelope into the urn. The lists of candidates of which he makes no use he places in a box specially provided for the purpose.
The voter may place in the urn the list of candidates of any party he likes.
At the conclusion of the polling the electoral Committee of the constituency makes a first partial scrutiny, that is to say, counts the number of ballot papers given for each party. Even such lists of candidates on which the names of the candidates are struck out or altered are counted in favour of the party to which they belong, so that erasure, or striking out (even if all names be struck out) or alteration have no effect whatsoever. This is the system of the “strictly binding lists”, as it is called.
On the second day (the Tuesday) following the polls the Election Committee of the constituency meets and on the basis of reports from all the districts composing the constituency, carry out what is called the first scrutiny.
They ascertain the sum total of all valid votes given to the individual parties; this total is then divided by the number of seats allotted to the particular constituency; and the resultant figure (no regard being paid to remainders) is the “election number” that is, the number of votes necessary to secure the election of one member.
The total number of votes given for each party list is now divided by this “election number” and the committee allots to each party a number of seats equivalent to the number of times that the “election number” is contained in the sum total of votes obtained by the party.
The candidates belonging to the different parties are allotted the seats which fall to those parties, in the order in which their names appear on the lists of candidates. If a list of candidates printed as a ballot paper differs from the original list handed in to the Electoral Committee of the Constituency, the contents and the order of the names of the original list have priority.
Seats not assigned at the first scrutiny are alloted eight days after the completion of the elections throughout the whole Republic, by a Central Electoral Committee attached to the Ministry of the Interior. This is the second scrutiny.
Before the commencement of the second scrutiny such members of the Central Electoral Committee as are party agents present to the Chairman of thethe lists of candidates of their respective parties: these lists may contain the names of any number of candidates, yet only of those who have already sought election in some constituency and failed to be elected at the first scrutiny.
At the second scrutiny consideration is given only to the votes of parties which in at least one constituency obtained 20.000 votes (or the “electoral number”, should this be less than 20.000) and which presented a list of candidates for the second scrutiny.
The Committee counts the votes remaining over, obtained by the different parties together throughout the Republic, and ascertains the necessary quotient (the “electoral number”). This number is, in this case, the round sum irrespective of any remainder, which is arrived at by dividing the total of all votes remaining over from the first scrutiny by the number of seats to be filled, plus one.
The Committee allots to each party a number of seats corresponding to the number of times that the “electoral number” is contained in the surplus of votes given to the party in all the constituencies taken together.
If, at the second scrutiny all the seats are not allotted, the Committee assigns one seat each to those parties which have the largest remainders of votes still left. This is known as the third scrutiny.
Here, too, the candidates of the various parties are taken in the order in which their name appear on the lists.
All the candidates who have failed to obtain election at the 1st, 2nd or 3rd scrutiny are “reserves”. That is to say, if a seat becomes vacant, no bye-election takes place, but a “reserve” candidate of the same party as the late member automatically succeeds to his seat. The “reserve” man must have stood as a candidate for the same constituency in which the vacancy occurs and the order of the names on the list of candidates is followed. If no such candidate is available the “reserve” man is taken in the due order from the list of candidates presented for the second scrutiny.
ELECTIONS TO THE SENATE
(Act of Parliament of 29. Feb. 1920. No. 134 in the Code of Laws and Regulations.)
All persons are entitled to vote whose names are duly entered on the Standing List of Voters, and who, at the date of the first publication of the same have attained the age of 26 years.
Eligibility for membership commences at the age of 45 years.
There are 13 constituencies each of which, in general, is composed of two such constituencies as send members to the Chamber of Deputies. The smallest constituency sends up 4 members, the largest (that of Prague) 23.
The franchise rules governing elections to the Chamber of Deputies apply also to the Senatorial elections (see above).
If elections to the two chambers take place within 4 weeks of each other, no person may stand as candidate for both houses. The election of a candidate in defiance of this provision is invalid.
In cases other than that just mentioned, if a deputy be elected senator, or vice versa a senator be elected deputy, he shall take his seat in that chamber to which he was last elected.
THE STANDING LISTS OF VOTERS.
(Act of Parliament of 19. Dec. 1919 No 663 in the Code at Laws and Regulations, supplemented by the Act of 23 Jan. 1920 No. 44.)
Not only parliamentary elections but also all municipal and local elections take place on the basis of the Standing Lists of Voters (for the Senate with the restriction of age-26 years).
All citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic, irrespective of sex, who on the date of the publication of the lists have attained the age of 21 years and have resided in one polling district for the preceding three months and who have not been deprived of the franchise by a judgment of the courts or condemnation for some crime, have their names entered on the Standing List of Voters.
The lists are compiled and carefully kept up-to-date by a local election Committee which is set up for every polling district and is composed of the burgomaster, or a deputy nominated by him, as chairman, together with 4 to 8 assessors. These assessors (or deputy assessors if necessary) are appointed for a term of three years by the political Bureau of Control (a State office). In nominating the members of the Committee (or their deputies should it be necessary to appoint such in the course of the three years) care is taken that as far as possible all political parties shall be equally represented and regard paid to nomination proposals emanating from the political parties themselves.
Communities with less than 5000 inhabitants form a single electoral district and a separate list of voters is drawn up for it. Houses are entered thereon according to the order in which they are numbered in the community, commencing at the lowest number, and then the occupants of each house in alphabetical order.
Communities with more than 5000 inhabitants are divided by the above-mentioned Committee into several electoral districts. Voters have to supply particulars of their surname, Christian name, the date of their birth and their occupation.
The burgomaster has to submit the lists to public scrutiny for a period of eight week days twice in the year commencing on the 15th of June and the 15th of December respectively.
Every person has the right to look through the list, and to make copies and extracts so long as he does not hinder others from exercising the same right.
In communities where the population exceeds 5000 the lists, on the demand of any one citizen and at his cost, must be printed in good time and in sufficient numbers and issued not later than the first day of the term appointed for sending in claims and objections.
During the period in which the lists are on view objections may be presented in writing at the burgomaster’s office. Persons unable to write may make their objections orally. If the objection concerns the inclusion of a name entered on the list, the objection must be at once communicated to the voter affected who is allowed three days in which to file his answer at the burgomaster’s office.
The uttimate decision with regard to objections lies with the Revising Committee attached to the Bureau of Control, the chairman of which is an official of that Bureau while the members are 8 to 12 assessors nominated by the Chairman for 3 years from the ranks of the various political parties. The revised lists are exposed to public scrutiny for 8 days at the end of January and at the end of July.
Against the decisions of the Revising Committee an appeal lies to the Electoral Court [see below].The judgment of this latter Court, however, does not affect the matter at issue unless it be communicated to the burgomaster’s office either officially or by the party affected, at least ten days before the election takes place.
Elections take place—on the basis of the revised lists published at the end of January—between February 1 and July 31: on the basis of the revised lists published at the end of July, between August 1 and January 31.
THE ELECTORAL COURT.
(Act of Parliament of 29. Feb. 1920 No. 123 in the Code of Laws and Regulations.)
The Electoral Court is composed of a president, 12 assessors and the requisite number of permanent officials.
The premier president for the time being of the Supreme Administrative Court acts as president. The permanent officials are appointed by the president and taken from the staff of the Supreme Administrative Court. The assessors are elected by the Chamber of Deputies (the original idea of allowing the Senate to elect a part of the assessors was abandoned, for the small number of the assessors made it impossible properly to apply the principle of proportional representation). All citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic who are versed in law, who have attained the age of 40 years, who have been Czechoslovak citizens for at least ten years and have not lost their right to vote are eligible for this post. Members of the Electoral Court may not become members of parliament nor members of any County Council (Council of a župa).
The Electoral Court is the exclusively competent authority:
1. to decide appeals against the decision of the Revising Committee in accordance with the law dealing with the Standing List of voters.
2. to examine into and confirm the validity of elections of members of the National Assembly and County Councils (Councils of the župy)
3. to decide appeals respecting elections to the National Assembly, County Councils and County Commissions and committees;
4. to decide whether a member of the National Assembly or County Council has forfeited his seat for
a) having lost the right to be elected;
b) having lost his membership of the party whose candidate he was and that for some disreputable and dishonourable cause.
Appeals must be made in writing within 14 days of the date on which the decision of the Revising Committee is made known to the appellant, or of the last date, on which the revised list of voters was on view, or of the date of the official announcement of the final result of the election: the appeals must bear the signature of a lawyer.
Appeals are conducted under a system of bench of the Electoral Court delivers judgment after the case has been conducted orally and in public. (Plaints, however, relative to the lists of candidates may be decided on the motion of the President of the Electoral Court, by a Commission consisting of the President, 3 assessors and a permanent official).in which the parties participate by question and answer, and in general a full
The Electoral Court in its finding states to what extent the election is annulled and, according to circumstances, designates the person who is elected in place of the member whose election has been declared invalid.
The presenting of plaints and documents relative thereto as well as all procedure is exempt from the payment of fees and stamps.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
(Act of Parliament of 9 March 1920. No. 162 in the Code of Laws and Regulations.)
Laws promulgated either by the National Assembly or by the Diet of Russinia, which are in conflict with the Charter of the Constitution or with laws amending or supplementing it, are invalid. The decision as to whether a law is valid or not in this sense pertains exclusively to the Constitutional Court.this Court is competent to decide whether measures adopted by the Standing Commission under § 54 of the Charter of the Constitution are in conflict with constitutional law (or whether or not they modify the competence of the civil service departments except where it is a matter of enlarging the competence of an office already set up, by imposing new duties upon it).
The Constitutional Court is composed of 7 members, three of whom are nominated by the President of the Republic as follows: the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, and the Diet of Russinia each propose three of their members and the President of the Republic choses one member from each group. The President at the same time nominates one of the three members to be President of the Constitutional Court. Of the remaining 4, two each are taken from the ranks of the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Supreme Administrative Court.
For each member a substitute is nominated to sit when necessary and the procedure of nomination is the same as in the case of that of the original member.
The members of the Constitutional Court as well as the substitute members must be persons well versed in the law, eligible for membership of the Senate, and who are neither members of parliament nor civil servants.
The members of the Constitutional Court are nominated for a term of 10 years.
The question whether a particular law is in conflict with the Charter of the Constitution is decided by the Constitutional Court exclusively on the motion of the Supreme Court of Justice, or the Supreme Administrative Court, the Electoral Court, the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate or the Diet of Russinia. A resolution to carry such a motion must be passed by a majority in the above-mentioned bodies in each case.
It must be made within 3 years at least of the date on which the law in question was promulgated.
Such an application is made under a system of procedure in which the parties participate by question and answer, and in the presence of the legislative assemblies and the government. Exact limits are fixed to the duration of the proceedings. They may not last longer than 10 months. The proceedings are public and oral. Should any of the parties fall to send their representatives to the hearing, the proceeding shall not be thereby in any way prejudiced. Five votes at least are always necessary for finding against the validity of a law.
The finding of the Constitutional Court is reported by the President of that Court to the Government. It is the duty of the Minister of the Interior to publish the finding within eight days and without comment in the official Code of Laws and Regulations. At the same time the finding is to be published in the official press with detailed grounds for the decision.
The publication of the finding in the official Code of Laws and Regulations has the effect of making it binding, from the date of its publication, upon the legislative bodies, the Government, all public offices, and on the Courts.