William F. Sullivan, Jr., for appellant.
Harry Wolov, for County Board of Elections of Philadelphia, appellee.
Frank M. Jackson, for Democratic City Committee of Philadelphia, appellee.
Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Eagen and Mr. Justice Manderino concur in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Nix.
These appeals arise from orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County granting the petitions of the Philadelphia County Board of Elections for the consolidation and realignment of various election districts of the 14th Ward. Appeals were taken to the Commonwealth Court, but were then transferred to this Court pursuant to Section 503(b) of the Appellate
Court Jurisdiction Act, 17 P.S. § 211.503(b), since they involved the right to public office. See Smethport Area School District v. Bowers, 440 Pa. 310, 269 A.2d 712 (1970). After hearing argument on April 30, this Court, because of the public importance of a prompt disposition of these appeals, entered a per curiam order on May 9, reversing the orders below and indicating that an opinion was to follow. This is that opinion.
Appellant raises two arguments for reversal of the orders of the court below: (1) that the court abused its discretion in consolidating election districts on the eve of the filing deadline for nominations for district offices; and (2) that the notice provisions of Section 2704 of the Election Code, as amended, 25 P.S. § 2704, were not complied with. We base our reversal on the lack of compliance with Section 504 and need not address appellant's other argument.
Prior to 1943 the courts of quarter sessions were vested with exclusive and unfettered jurisdiction in the formation and division of election districts. See, e.g., In re Division of the Township of Bern, 115 Pa. 615, 9 A. 62 (1887). Article 8, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1874, as amended, November 6, 1928, contained this grant of power, providing as follows:
"Section 11. Election districts
"Townships, and wards of cities or boroughs, shall form or be divided into election districts of compact and contiguous territory, in such manner as the court of quarter sessions of the city or county in which the same are located may direct; but the courts of quarter sessions, having jurisdiction therein, shall have power to divide or change the boundaries of election districts whenever the court of the proper county shall be of opinion that the convenience of the electors and the public interests will be ...