Inspired by the electoral systems of Belgium and interwar Germany, the Czechoslovak electoral system featured three levels (skrutinium
) of proportional representation that operated in slightly different fashions. The two chambers of the National Assembly, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were made up of 300 and 150 members, respectively, elected every 6 and every 8 years respectively. In practice, however, both chambers were always elected simultaneously. In practice too, very few of the Chamber's legislatures lasted all 6 years, with elections held in 1920, 1925, 1929 ad 1935, only the 1929-1935 legislature lasted roughly what it was meant to.
Voting was mandatory for every man and woman over 21 but below 70. Overall, the elections can be considered to have been free and fair, with the potential exception of Ruthenia where it isn't unheard for the government authorities to favor anti-Hungarian parties. Indeed, one of the reasons why the election of 1920 wasn't held in Ruthenia until 1924 was precisely because many in Prague feared a Magyarone victory.
Elections were held on two days, on a Sunday for the first round, and a week later for the second and third rounds, although no one voted on these latter rounds. The time span was designed to give the parties time to draft candidate lists for these latter rounds. The party lists were closed lists.
For the election of 1920, the country was divided into a total of 23 constituencies, electing from 6 o 45 deputies. The numbers of seats that were allocated to each constituency was not exactly based on population - although it did play a large role. According to the authors of the electoral law, other factors like the historical under-representation of Czech voters also played a role in the over-representation of, for instance, the Bohemian central plateau, or the under-representation of the Hungarians in Slovakia (grouped into the Nové Zamky
constituencies). In theory, it was also designed to reflect future demographic trends as the electoral law had no way of automatically re-allocating the seats.
This last, official reason to me appears to be basically false, the Czech Lands had far lower birth rates than Slovakia, not to mention feudal Ruthenia, and on average, it was better represented. The table below shows the ratio of citizen per seat, including both voting age and underage citizens. That is one of the reasons why Ruthenia also shows such a discrepancy with the rest of the country - it was a far younger part of the country.
In 1920, no elections would be held in either the Tesin or the Uzhorod constituencies. In the case of Tesin, because at the time of the election, the territory of the former Duchy of Teschen was disputed between Czechoslovakia and Poland, resulting in a short war that was ended through a League of Nations-mediated settlement and a partition of the territory. For 1925, the Czechoslovak part of Tesin was added to the Moravska Ostrava constituency. Elections in the administrative district of Hlucin (Mor. Ostrava) couldn't be held either due to its disputed status, and as a result, in 1920, the constituency would have elected 13, rather than 14 seats.
1920 was also the only time the Prague constituency existed, as in the successive elections, the constituency was divided into two, Prague A and Prague B, each electing 24 seats each.
In practice, in 1920, only 281 representatives were elected and sat between 1920 and 1924, 290 from 1924 until 1925.
The number of theoretically-allocated seats per constituency's main role was limited. They served to calculate the quota
of each constituency. This quota was Hare - the number of valid votes casts divided by the number of seats. The resulting number was always rounded down
. This number was known as the 'election number
In the first round, there were no thresholds for parties to cross, and any party that met the quota would get a seat. This is pretty straightforward. Because of the differences in voters:seats ratio, the election number could vary significantly, from 17,679 in Liptovsky Sväty Mikulas to 27,743 in Kosice.
All valid votes from each party would thus be allocated on the basis of these quotas. Unallocated seats and votes would pass to the second (and ultimately third rounds). This meant that in practice, each constituency elected less seats than it was theoretically allocated, on average only 66% of all seats were allocated on the first round, with great variation, going from only 50% in Hradec Kralové to 86.67% in Prague.
This would become a significant political issue later on, as the Slovak People's Party resented losing 'Slovak' seats due to the national character of the second and third rounds.
All the remaining votes that had not been enough to obtain a seat and all the unallocated seats from the first round were grouped together. The second round was held a week after the first round, giving time to the parties to create candidate lists from candidates who hadn't been elected on the first round from across the country.
The way that the second round operated diverges somewhat from the first round. For starters, the second round was done through a single, national constituency. The second round also featured a threshold - in order to be able to participate in this second allocation of seats, a party would have had to obtain at least one seat on the first round or 20,000 votes in at least one constituency. The United Jewish Party, for instance, had failed to gain any seats in the first round and never obtained more than 11,000 votes in a constituency. As a result, it would not participate.
(electoral number) for the second round was also calculated differently. Instead of taking into account all the valid votes cast, it only took into account the remaining votes of parties that met the threshold and divided it by the number of remaining seats plus one (Hagenbach-Bischoff quota), making it slightly more favorable to larger parties than the Hare quota used on the first round. Like on the first round, the resulting number was rounded down
In 1920, the electoral number was 20,574 for the Chamber of Deputies. In the second round, there were 83 seats to be allocated, of which 77 were, and the 6 left would be allocated on the third and final round.
The electoral law stipulated that there would be no third round in the - rare - case that all remaining seats had been allocated on the second round.
In the case that after applying the second round quota to the remaining seats, there were still unassigned seats, then these were allocated to the parties according to the largest remainder system.
This would thus look something similar to this: