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of the constitution, and the 63d section of the act of 2d July 1839, passed immediately after the adoption of the constitution and based upon it. That part of the constitution referred to is in these words: "in elections by the citizens, every white freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in this state one year, and in the election district where he offers to vote, ten days immediately preceding such election, and within two years paid a state or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least ten days before the election, shall enjoy the rights of an elector." The 63d section of the act of 1839 is as follows: "no person shall be permitted to vote at any election as aforesaid, other than a white freeman of the age of twenty-one years or more, who shall have resided in this state at least one year, and in the election district where he offers to vote, at least ten days immediately preceding such election, and within two years paid a state or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least ten days before the election."
The term "election district," as employed in the constitution and the act above quoted, may be defined to be, any part of a city or county, where its boundaries are fixed by law, either by legislative enactment, or by the adjudication of a court, or other authority to whom this power is delegated, where the citizens, within the boundaries thus established, assemble to vote for public officers, whether their authority is local, or they are to act in governing the affairs of the state or nation. This construction of the law, I think, is fully sustained by a reference to various acts of assembly which were in force when the new constitution was adopted, and which have since been passed.
The act of the 15th of April 1834, relating to townships and township officers, provides that each township in the state may sue and be sued by its known and designated name; it also gives authority to the citizens within the boundaries thereof, annually to elect one assessor, a con
stable and other officers that are mentioned in the act, who are to perform certain duties relating to the good government of the township. Other acts of assembly authorize every borough to elect an assessor, divide boroughs into different wards for that purpose, and give the citizens power to elect numerous officers for a proper regulation of their municipal affairs; others give authority to the electors of the various wards in cities to elect assessors, constables, &c., where the territory embraced within such wards has been designated by law. Hence, we decide that these are "election districts;" and it was in reference to such legally-constituted parts of counties or cities, that it was intended those words should apply; it is an expression in common use, and perfectly understood by the people, as denoting any such portion of territory, whether coming under the name of township, borough, ward or district; nor was it intended by the law-making power, to have a more extended application, as I think is manifest from other parts of the act of the 2d of July 1839.
The 51st section of that act provides, that "the election for assessors in the several townships, wards and districts in this commonwealth, shall be conducted under the same regulations as are hereinbefore provided." In this section the term "district" is used; so also in other sections of the same act which will soon be mentioned, and that, in connection with wards and townships, and not designed to have a more extended signification-not intended to embrace a whole city and county. And a residence of ten days was not to be in any part of a city or county, but must be in some "election district," where the citizens had a right to assemble and vote for public officers, and where none could vote but those who had been domiciled within those designated boundaries, for at least ten days immediately preceding the time of holding an election.
Other sections of the act contain almost the same expressions, and denote a similar application, and at all times appear to have relation to election purposes. The
3d section provides, that the qualified citizens of the several wards, districts and townships shall meet, in every year, at the time and place of holding the election for constable of such ward, district or township, and then and there elect, as hereinafter provided, two inspectors and one judge of elections. The 6th section declares, that the judges of the election, within the limits of their respective wards, districts or townships, shall have power, and are hereby required to decide on the qualification of any person claiming to vote at an election, &c. The 7th section of the same law provides, that when any township has been or shall be divided in forming an election district, the qualified citizens of each part of such divided township shall severally elect, in the manner, and at the time and place aforesaid, two inspectors for each of said several election districts, and shall also elect one person to serve as judge of elections in each district, to perform the duties enjoined by the 6th section of the act.
I am aware that a city or county is authorized by law to elect one or more representatives to the state legislature, a senator or a member of congress; and in some statutes, this is called an election district. It is an election district for that special purpose, but it would be more proper to call it a representative, senatorial or congressional district, and in common conversation, it is generally so denominated; it cannot be said, with any propriety, that it is such an election district as is referred to in the constitution. Would any one seriously contend, that an elector could vote in any part of the county, by reason of his residence in it, simply because it was entitled, under the enumeration of its inhabitants, to elect two members of assembly and a member of congress? If so, then we may call the whole state an election district for the election of a governor (and a man could vote in any part of the commonwealth), with the same propriety, that a city or county is to be denominated an election district, under the constitution or the act of 1839.
If we have given a correct definition of the term "election district," then it is clear, that no citizen has a right to vote at any election, unless he has resided in the ward, township or district where he offers his vote, at least ten days preceding such election; and it is equally clear, that he must vote in the ward, township or place where he resides at the time the election is held.* If he has lost his residence in a ward, township or district, by a removal, although he has not obtained another, still he cannot return to his last place of inhabitancy, and claim the right of voting, because the law and the constitution require that he shall vote in the election district where he shall have resided ten days immediately preceding the election; and the loss of three days' residence is as effective, as to his legal rights, as three hundred. There can be but one place of domicil, which is instantaneously acquired, and when once attained, all others are terminated; nor can any vestige of the last residence be retained for election purposes.
It has been strenuously contended, that no citizen is to be disfranchised, that the right of an elector, so dear, is not to be taken away by a mere change of residence from one side of a street to another. Perhaps, it is a sufficient reply to this argument, to say, that the constitution gives this right to an elector, on three conditions: one is, that he shall have resided in the state one year; the second, ten days in the election district where he offers his vote, immediately preceding the election; and the third, that he has paid a state or county tax within two years. Now, if a citizen violate either of these conditions, his right to vote at that election is taken away by his own act: man is a free agent for most purposes; if, therefore, he should choose not to pay a tax for two years, and deprive himself of the elective franchise, can he censure any one but himself? If it suit the convenience of an elector, or he find it for his interest, to remove from one ward to another, less than ten days previously to an election, and
* See Commonwealth v. Kuntzman, 41 Penn. St. R. 429.
thereby deprive himself of a vote, can he complain of injustice, if his vote be refused in the district he has just left, and in the one to which he has removed, but where he has not had a residence of ten days? surely not; he violates one of the conditions of the constitution, to which he has subscribed, that gave him the original right.*
This the court believe to be the law, and a proper construction to be put upon it, for the purpose of preventing any avenue to fraud or imposition being opened, and most clearly we should be doing violence to the constitution and the law, to give any other opinion. The language is clear and unambiguous, and in our opinion, admits of no other fair interpretation; it has been framed in wisdom, nor would we change its provisions if we had the power to do so. The elector has all the privileges which any reasonable being could ask; he may remove within the ten days before an election, and lose his right to give a vote, if he please-if the advancement of his interest or convenience be more dear to him than the right of voting for public officers. Any other decision might open wide the gate for illegal voting, which would sully the purity of the ballot-box; the people have endeavored, by clear statutory provisions, to protect it from fraud or dishonor, and covered it with a protecting shield, and we are not disposed to suffer its sanctity to be invaded. On the contrary, we will give every fair interpretation to the law, which is calculated to guard it with firmer bars and stronger locks, if possible; public justice demands this, from those entrusted with the administration of the law.
The next inquiry is, had Thomson lost his residence in the Sixth ward, before the day of election? It is clear, that down to the 11th of March last, he resided in the Sixth ward; that for a few days before, he had been removing his effects into Penn township; he testified, that his family slept, for the last time, in the house he had occupied in the Sixth ward, on Monday night, the 11th;
* See State v. Adams, 2 Stew. 239.