Stephen P. Gallagher, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
This appeal questioned the ruling of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County which dismissed appellant's timely objection to appellees' nomination petitions for the office of members of the ward executive committee of the Democratic party. After consideration of the arguments presented this Court concluded that the learned court below was in error and accordingly entered orders on March 12, 1976 reversing the orders of the hearing court and prevented the names of the appellees herein from appearing on the ballot for the said offices in the Primary Election which was held on April 27, 1976.*fn1
Appellees, Thomas J. Gallagher and David G. Bristow, desirous of seeking the office of members of the ward executive committee, 42nd ward, 11th division, filed petitions to have their names placed on the ballot as candidates for the said offices.*fn2 On the form which was provided for this purpose, spaces appeared on the face for the signature, address, occupation and the date of signing for those qualified electors who wish to offer the name of the candidate to be placed upon the ballot. For the office of member of the ward executive committee, ten valid signatures were required. Act of 1937, June 3, P.L. 1333, art. IX, § 912(f); as amended, 1951, May 16,
P.L. 302, § 1(f); 25 P.S. 2872(f). The dates during which these petitions were to be circulated and the signatures secured are also regulated by statute. Act of June 3, 1937, supra as amended at § 908, 25 P.S. 2868 (Supp.1975-76).
When filed each petition contained 19 purported signatures on its face, nine names in excess of the number necessary to have the name of the candidate placed on the ballot. Appellant, Diane Perks, filed timely objections challenging 12 of the 19 signatures on each of the two petitions. After a hearing in the court below, ten signatures were ruled to be invalid on each petition, leaving a total of nine valid signatures on the face of each petition.*fn3 The court refused to strike the petitions but rather allowed the petitions to be amended by affixing the name of David G. Bristow on the face of both, concededly beyond the time for securing such signatures, and declared both petitions to be valid. After due consideration we are of the opinion that, that action was error and therefore reversed the order of the court below.
Section 977 of the Act, supra, as amended, 25 P.S. § 2937 (Supp.1975-76) provides that if a petition fails to contain a sufficient number of genuine signatures of electors qualified to sign, it should be set aside. Further, it is conceded that if the petition contained only nine valid signatures a hearing court would be powerless to permit the affixing of the tenth valid signature (by way of amendment) after the proscribed time had elapsed. Appellees and the hearing court attempted to skirt these two admitted principles by arguing that the petition did in fact contain a sufficient number of genuine signatures acquired within the designated period. It is asserted that Mr. Bristow's execution of the candidates' affidavit on the petition offering his name in nomination and his execution of the circulator's oath on the Gallagher petition also satisfied the requirement as one of the signers
offering the name of the candidate in nomination. In his opinion, the hearing court reasoned:
"We believe the amendment was entirely appropriate. The individual had already expressed by signature under oath, support for the candidacy. Signing on the reverse side of the sheet seems to us to be a mere mechanical declaration of what is already self-evident, i. e., the individual on or before the last day for filing ...