Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Nov. T., 1971, Nos. 134 and 223, in case of In re: Opening of ballot box in the Second Ward, second and third precincts of the Borough of Canonsburg, Washington County, Pennsylvania; Appeal of Jack Passante; Appeal of Francis J. Buckley, Jr.
Frank C. Roney, with him Rodgers and Roney, for appellant, Jack Passante.
Arthur M. Wilson, with him Patrick C. Derrico, and Greenlee, Richman, Derrico & Posa, for appellant, Francis J. Buckley, Jr.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen.
At the general election of November 2, 1971, Edward J. Norwood, Jr., and Francis J. Buckley, Jr., were the nominees of the Democratic Party, and Rose Churray and Jack Passante were the nominees of the Republican Party for the office of councilman of the Second Ward in the Borough of Canonsburg, Washington County, with two to be elected. Candidate Norwood was elected decisively, but an extremely close contest developed between Buckley and Passante for the second seat. This litigation resulted.
There are three voting precincts in the Second Ward of Canonsburg Borough and paper ballots were used in all in the 1971 election.
Alleging error was committed in the computation of the votes cast in the Second Precinct, three electors acting in Buckley's interest filed a timely petition in the Court of Common Pleas requesting a recount of the ballots cast in this precinct. Three electors acting in Passante's interest filed a similar petition seeking a recount of the ballots cast in the Third Precinct. The court granted both petitions and appointed two separate boards, each consisting of three individuals, to recount the ballots in each of the precincts in which the correctness of the computation of the vote was challenged, and directed that notice of the time and place be given to all parties concerned.
The recounts directed by the court duly followed with Buckley, Passante and their respective counsel present. Subsequently, the reports of the two court-appointed recount boards were filed with the court, which then directed that the election returns for the two precincts involved be recorded in accordance with the computations made by the recount boards.
Buckley filed exceptions to the recount board's computation of the vote in the Third Precinct. Passante filed exceptions to the recount board's computation of the vote in the Second Precinct. All of these exceptions dealt with the validity of certain ballots to which challenges had been entered. Passante also requested the court to order a second recount of the ballots cast in the Second Precinct alleging the recount board for this precinct had inadvertently failed to count certain ballots cast in his favor due to confusion created during the recount proceedings by delaying and distracting actions on the part of one of its clerks. The recount board filed an answer to this request by Passante categorically denying that all of the votes were not counted and detailing the work and effort performed by the board to assure a correct computation of the vote. After argument before a court en banc, the court denied the request for a second recount of the vote in the Second Precinct and ruled on the exceptions filed by both candidates. Petitions for reargument were denied and both Buckley and Passante then filed appeals in this Court. Since the appeals are from orders entered by the court below in recount proceedings initiated by petitions filed, as authorized by Article XVII, § 1701 of the Election Code of 1937, Act of 1937, June 3, P. L. 1333, 25 P.S. § 3261, our scope of review is broad in nature. See McKclvey Appeal, 444 Pa. 392, 281 A.2d 642 (1971), and Cullen Appeal, 392 Pa. 602, 141 A.2d 389 (1958).