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EUGENE COON v. ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD ELECTIONS (02/01/80)

decided: February 1, 1980.

EUGENE COON, APPELLANT,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, APPELLEE



No. 55 W.D. Misc. Docket 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at No. GD 79-23727.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., participated in this decision, but did not participate in the consideration of this opinion.

Author: Eagen

[ 488 Pa. Page 98]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Eugene Coon, appellant, filed a complaint in mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in which he sought to have his name added to the ballot for the November, 1979 election as a nominee of the Democratic Party for the offices of county commissioner. The court dismissed the complaint, and this appeal followed.*fn1

Coon was a candidate for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the office of county commissioner in the Primary Election of 1979 and received the third-highest number of votes cast.

The issue presented requires a determination of the number of candidates a political party may nominate in a primary

[ 488 Pa. Page 99]

    election for the offices of county commissioner. A brief historical review is helpful in resolving the issue.

Pa.Const. art. 14, § 7 (1874), in pertinent part, provided:

"Three county commissioners . . . shall be elected in each county . . . and in the election of said officers each qualified elector shall vote for no more than two persons, and the three persons having the highest number of votes shall be elected . . . ."

Following the adoption of this provision, political parties have nominated only two candidates for the offices of county commissioner. Previously, parties nominated candidates by a means other than a primary election, such as conventions or caucuses. Winston v. Moore, 244 Pa. 447, 91 A. 520 (1914). When primary elections were statutorily adopted as the process by which candidates for public office were to be nominated, the constitutional provision was made applicable by common practice to the primary election. As a result, in both the municipal and primary elections, each elector voted for only two persons, each party nominated two candidates at the primary election, and the three persons having the highest number of votes at the municipal election were elected to the offices.

The provision in the Constitution of 1874, supra, was replaced by art. 9, § 4 of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968, which, in pertinent part, provides:

"Three county commissioners shall be elected in each county. In the election of these officers each qualified elector shall vote for no more than two persons, and the three persons ...


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