July 15, 1963
Appeals, Nos. 152 and 153, March T., 1963, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Feb. T., 1963, No. 491, in cases of Mike Packrall v. Louis I. Quail, director of elections of Washington County, J. Blatch Cummins, John Mazza et al., and Frank Jones, Jr. v. Same. Judgment reversed.
George B. Stegenga, for appellants.
Oliver N. Hormell, County Solicitor, with him Paul A. Simmons, for appellees.
Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.
[ 411 Pa. Page 556]
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN
This is an action of mandamus to compel the Board of Elections of Washington County to accept the nomination papers of appellants, Mike Packrall and Frank Jones, Jr., as the candidates of the "Good Government Party" for the office of county commissioner.
The undisputed facts are that Packrall filed nomination petitions to have his name placed on the primary ballot of the Democratic Party for the offices of county commissioner and county treasurer. Within the permitted period,*fn1 he withdrew both of these petitions. Thereafter nomination papers*fn2 were filed by the Good Government Party nominating Packrall and Jones for the office of county commissioner. The county board of elections refused to accept the nomination papers and the court below affirmed the refusal on the ground that Packrall's prior filing of a nomination petition disqualified him, and that Packrall's ineligibility also invalidated the nomination of Jones. We hold that the court below ruled incorrectly in this matter.
Section 976 of the Pennsylvania Election Code provides that no nomination paper shall be accepted "if the candidate named therein has filed a nomination
[ 411 Pa. Page 557]
petition for any public office for the ensuing primary, or has been nominated for any such office by nomination papers previously filed."*fn3 In holding that section 976 made Packrall ineligible for nomination, the court below interpreted the prohibition as extending to the mere filing of a prior petition, regardless of the status of that petition at the time the nomination paper is filed. The court stated that otherwise a prospective candidate "could wait and see who his opponents were and if he felt they were too strong politically to successfully contest their nomination in the Primary, he could withdraw and have his name submitted to the voters in the General Election merely by getting sufficient signatures to Nomination Papers."
We conclude that the court below attributed the wrong purpose to section 976. The real purpose of this part of the so-called "party raiding" provisions is to prevent the election ballot from being cluttered by candidates who are seeking to multiply the number of times their name appears on the ballot under various inviting labels. See Thompson v. Morrison, 352 Pa. 616, 625, 44 A.2d 55, 59 (1945) (dissenting opinion by former Chief Justice JONES). The legislative remedy was to limit each person to being a candidate of one political group,*fn4 a choice which could be made any time before the close of the nomination period. Section 976, therefore, requires only that the person seeking nomination not be the candidate of another political group at the time the nomination paper is filed.*fn5
[ 411 Pa. Page 558]
At the time of filing the nomination papers, Packrall had withdrawn his nomination petition and hence was not a candidate for the Democratic primary. Cf. In re Lower Allen Township School Directors, 16 Pa.D. & C.2d 500, aff'd per curiam sub nom, Carbone Appeal, 395 Pa. 581, 150 A.2d 533 (1959). Accordingly, section 976 did not prevent the acceptance of his nomination paper as the candidate of the Good Government Party.*fn6
As for the evil envisaged by the court below, one might question either its significance or its elimination through the device of regulating the filing of nomination petitions. For example, a prospective candidate could still wait until the last day for filing petitions in order to decide whether his opponents "were too strong politically" to contest in the primary election. In any event, however, the question of whether this alleged evil necessitates a further restriction on the nomination process is one for legislative and not judicial determination.*fn7
Mr. Justice EAGEN dissents.
Judgment reversed with direction to accept appellants' nomination papers.