Vote count

The Communist election committees typically counted as "aye" all the ballots unless both the first and last name of their unopposed candidate were crossed off completely. A casual scratch across a name or the whole list was not considered a vote against.

Communist primer

The Primer on the Essentials of Political Knowledge published by the Communists in the 1970s and 1980s said nothing about how candidates in elections were appointed, or how to vote against a candidate.

 

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Dairymaids lined up to "vote manifestly" in Trenčín County in 1986.

Election results

There was always almost a perfect turnout under communism. Although voting was not obligatory, people feared repercussions should they choose not to vote. The results were usually around 99.8% "for."

The official results showed that about 7,000 people in Slovakia would vote in a manner that the Communists counted and published as votes against them. The overwhelming majority of those few votes was in East Slovakia.

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Warsaw Pact invasion, Bratislava, 1968, photo Ladislav Bielik

The Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, and their allies invaded Czechoslovakia to restore strict Communist rule when the country seemed to be on the way to contested elections.

 

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Teams with ballots and boxes tracked down the sick and infirm at home to obtain all but a 100% turnount.

Communist elections

Q: Was the mayor elected or appointed?

Elections were organized regularly, but for all practical purposes, there were no elected offices under communism, including the members of parliament, only appointments by the Communist Party.

Candidates

The single list of candidates was drawn up by the Communist Party (CP) with only one candidate for each office, almost all CP members. The Communists also selected and nominated (effectively appointed) a minuscule number of non-CP members.

Voting rooms

The ballot box was placed at the center of the room in front of the 4-5 member committee who checked off people's names and gave each a ballot with preprinted names of the candidates, one name for each office. To adjust the ballots in private, the voter would have to remember to bring a pen or pencil and walk, observed by the committee, to the far corner of the room where the Communists placed a small screen with a table and a pen or pencil, sometimes broken according to informal internal instructions so that the voter would need to go back to the committee and ask for a new one. Before the election day, people were enjoined to "vote manifestly," that is to pick up the ballot from the committee, turn around, and drop it off in the ballot box right away.

Election rules

The campaign was only for the uncontested Communist Party-appointed ticket that the voters received in the voting rooms. No one was allowed to campaign as an alternative, independent candidate.

Even if anyone wanted to, people generally did not know how to vote against a person on the list. The law said the voter had to cross off the candidate's name, and possibly write in someone else. That, however, was not addressed in the media, civics classes, or books on communism. The dozen or two dissidents who searched the statutes and, rarely, copied and tried to distribute the Communists' own official election rules in a few places were routinely detained.

People's concerns

Although it may not have been true in most instances in Czechoslovakia under communism, people assumed that the election committee would write down the names of those who dared to walk behind the screen and pass them on to the secret police for retribution. Almost everyone just picked up the list of candidates (effectively appointees) and dropped it off in the ballot box a few steps away.

Most people must have thought that their individual dissenting vote would not have meant anything, and that the result would be misrepresented anyway if the Communists did not like it. People felt communism was there to be "for ever," no matter what.