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GENERAL ELECTION (06/09/89)

decided: June 9, 1989.

IN RE GENERAL ELECTION, NOVEMBER 8, 1988. APPEAL OF REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE OF PENNSYLVANIA AND REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY


Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Allegheny County; Honorable Ralph J. Cappy, Judge.

COUNSEL

Robert L. Byer, Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, Pittsburgh, for appellant, Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania.

Arthur H. Stroyd, Jr., Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellant, Republican Executive Committee of Allegheny County.

Allan J. Opsitnick, Asst. County Sol., James J. Dodaro, County Sol., Allegheny County Law Dept., Pittsburgh, for appellee, Allegheny County.

Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, and Craig, Doyle, Barry, Palladino, McGinley and Smith, JJ.

Author: Craig

[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 452]

In view of the statute which prohibits voter registration during the thirty-day period preceding each election day, except as to electors unregistered because of circumstances beyond their control, may the judiciary grant election officials of a particular county a blanket authorization to register over 4700 voters who merely failed to present registration applications in time?

Because the courts have no power to amend statutory mandates enacted by the legislature, the answer must be negative.

This appeal, by the Republican State Committee and Republican Executive Committee of Allegheny County as appellants, is from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which granted to the Allegheny County Director of Elections special authority to register over 4700 voters whose untimely applications the department had received in the mail after the October 11, 1988 voter registration deadline applicable to the November 8, 1988 general election.

Section 16(a) of the Permanent Registration Act, Act of April 29, 1937, P.L. 487, as amended, 25 P.S. § 951-16(a), prohibits voter registration during "the thirty days next preceding each general, municipal and primary election . . . ." Also, under section 17.1(a)(3), 25 P.S. § 951-17.1(a)(3), mail registration procedures include a provision that the official mail registration form must state that election officials have to receive the mail registration card "at least thirty days prior to the ensuing primary or election at which the applicant may offer to vote."

The only provision in the Act for nunc pro tunc registration authorization by a court is in section 28.1, 25 P.S. § 951-28.1, which first requires the court of common pleas to be in continuous session on primary and election days, during the period the polls are open, and then states:

During such period said court shall hear and determine (1) the petition of any qualified elector who has heretofore

[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 453]

    been duly registered as an elector of said county but who, due to circumstances beyond his control, has failed to file a removal notice or reinstatement card in order to insure the inclusion of his registration card in the district register of the election district of his residence, . . . (3) the petition of any qualified elector who is a duly discharged veteran and who, by reason of his service in the armed forces, was unable to register within the time fixed by law, and (4) the petition of any [election official] setting forth that the right to vote of the particular elector has been denied by reason of an error by the registration commission. (Emphasis added.)

Thus, in addition to a provision allowing a physically disabled voter to obtain a late entry on his registration card as to an impairment causing his need for voting assistance, the only ...


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