that they had been requalified or reinstated to the voting rolls in 1971;
(4) approximately 3% of those purged had voted in the May, 1970 primary;
(5) approximately 20% of those purged never received the letters notifying them of the purge because their notices were returned by the Post Office pursuant to directions on the envelopes that they not be forwarded; and
(6) Democrats were allegedly purged at a significantly higher rate than were Republicans.
Not all of these matters were properly before the Court.
Each of the six grounds just listed represents a distinct cause of action. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23,
a class action may not be maintained unless the named plaintiff or plaintiffs properly represents the class or classes. Only if a named plaintiff has a personal interest in the outcome of the claims can proper representation be assured; only then can he have standing to assert the claim.
A plaintiff cannot bring a suit on behalf of a class based upon a cause of action in which he has no rights.
The sole named plaintiff in this case was not a member of the classes which would be affected by a decision on the merits of grounds (2), (3), and (4) above, and could not be permitted to pursue their causes of action. Plaintiff was permitted to represent the classes whose grievances fell within sub-'s (1), (5), and (6).
Hence, the court reached the merits of grounds (1), (5), and (6) only. Ground (6), relating to the alleged discriminatory purge of Democrats, is properly brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1971(a)(2)(A) which prohibits the utilization under color of state law of any practices in the determination of voter eligibility which differ from those applied to other individuals within the same county. However, Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to support this claim. He merely introduced a list of the names and party affiliations of the voters who had been purged in Lackawanna County in 1972. The Court's random sample of 500 of these names showed that approximately 83% of those purged were registered Democrats, 14% were registered Republicans, and 2% were independents. There is a suspicious disparity between the percentage for Democrats and that for Republicans, but a declaration of unconstitutional discrimination cannot be based on mere suspicion. Although Plaintiff had access to the voter registration files, he introduced no evidence of the relative percentages of registered Democrats and Republicans in Lackawanna County, nor did he show that there were Republicans who should have been purged under the guidelines employed by the Commission, but were not so purged. He failed to make out a case as to this issue.
The two remaining grounds of attack were based on admitted facts: the purge took place from May to July, 1972, not during the statutorily specified period of January to March, and the notices were stamped, "Do not forward." Plaintiff contended that each of these procedures violated his state statutory rights and consequently his federal constitutional rights. He asserted in particular that his right not to be deprived of his vote without due process of law had been infringed, that his rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association had been violated, and that he had been denied the equal protection of the laws. Only the first of these three contentions is treated in this opinion; I found the issues presented by the other two either frivolous or identical with those presented by the due process claim. See Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 30-31, 89 S. Ct. 5, 21 L. Ed. 2d 24 (1968).
Plaintiff did not contest the constitutionality of the purge statute. The parallel Pennsylvania statute for cities of the first class has recently been found constitutional by a three-judge District Court panel which held that the state interest in preventing fraud in voting outweighed the minimal burden on the purged voters. Williams v. Osser, 350 F. Supp. 646 (E.D.Pa.1972).
Serious consideration was given to exercising the Court's discretion to abstain from deciding the issues presented by these contentions because state court vindication of Plaintiff's assertions of violations of state law would have rendered consideration of Plaintiff's federal constitutional claims unnecessary. See Askew v. Hargrave, 401 U.S. 476, 478, 91 S. Ct. 856, 28 L. Ed. 2d 196 (1971) (distinguishing McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 83 S. Ct. 1433, 10 L. Ed. 2d 622 (1963)); Reetz v. Bozanich, 397 U.S. 82, 86-87, 90 S. Ct. 788, 25 L. Ed. 2d 68 (1970); Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 61 S. Ct. 643, 85 L. Ed. 971 (1941); University Day Care Center v. Temple U., 442 F.2d 1116, 1118 (3d Cir. 1971). However, this case did not come before the Court for decision until November 2, 1972. By that time, Plaintiff could no longer file a timely petition in state court.
There was no assurance that the state court would have allowed a petition nunc pro tunc, particularly since Plaintiff could have filed a timely petition in state court on October 27, 1972, the date he filed his complaint in this court, or earlier. In this light, abstention with a view to allowing the state court first to consider the state law issues did not seem appropriate.
The lateness of the purge was due to a dilemma faced by Defendants during the first few months of 1972. The purge statute commands them to examine the registers and conduct a purge during the first three months of the year. Here the registration documents were impounded by the state court until early March, 1972 because of certain alleged irregularities in the election in the fall of 1971. Examination of the registers could have commenced in March, but Defendants were also charged by statute with the duty of preparing for the primary scheduled for April 25, 1972. This duty conflicted with their duty to examine the registers. Defendants reasonably chose to perform first the more pressing of the two duties.
In my view, the delay of four months in conducting the purge did not convert a constitutional practice into an unconstitutional one. The purged voters still had ample time to regain their ability to vote in the November, 1972 election. Purged voters who failed to request reinstatement within the specified period of 10 days were nonetheless reinstated by the commission if they so requested at any time up through the date of the hearing, and the County Solicitor stated in open court that their requests would be honored up to election day by the Board of Elections. Furthermore, any purged elector has a statutory right to re-register in the normal manner,
and those purged in 1972 had two to four months to do so.
Plaintiff's final ground for relief was based on a procedure instituted by Defendants in the absence of an express statutory authority or prohibition. The purge statute provides only that the notice of cancellation of registration shall be sent to the elector at the address appearing upon his registration card. Defendants stamped these notices "Do not forward." A complementary statute, relating to check-ups of the registers, is instructive here.
In those years in which the commission conducts a check-up, it is not required to examine the registers pursuant to the purge statute.
The check-up statute directs that the notice which is sent to an elector to inform him that any discrepancy between his actual name and address and his name and address as recorded in the register will constitute grounds for challenging his vote "shall contain on the outside a request of the postmaster to return it within five days if it cannot be delivered to the addressee at the address given thereon." 25 P.S. § 951-30(a). It is possible to infer from the presence of this specific direction in 25 P.S. § 951-30(a) and its absence in the purge statute that such a request of the postmaster should not be made with respect to purge notices. However, my reading of the statutory scheme regarding registration of voters leads me to judge such a construction to be overly narrow and technical. The legislative intent to prevent warning notices from being received by persons who have failed to advise the commission of their change of address is clear. In my view, Defendants acted reasonably in adopting the no-forwarding practice spelled out in § 951-30(a) to the parallel purposes and needs of § 951-38.
Because the direction to the Post Office not to forward the notices was not shown to be discriminatory or to present an absolute bar to voting, the constitutional test applied here was to balance the state interest against the burden on the purged individuals. Williams v. Osser, 350 F. Supp. 646 (E.D.Pa.1972). The purpose of the direction not to forward is to avert fraud. The only burden on the individual is to notify the commission of any change in his address, something he is required to do by state law.
I found the minor burden on the purged voters outweighed by the legitimate state interest. In my view, Plaintiff failed to prove that Defendants violated the constitutional rights of the classes properly represented by Plaintiff, and thus they were not entitled to any equitable relief.
This opinion constitutes the findings of fact and conclusions of law of this Court.