VOTING REGISTRATIONS, CHALLENGES THEREOF BASED ON LACK OF RESIDENCE.
Challenging procedure set forth in § 9, chapter 181, Laws of 1955, establishes an alternative procedure for handling residence challenges prior to the day of the election without removing the possibility of making such challenges at the polls.
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March 6, 1956
Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 217
You have requested the opinion of this office upon the following question:
"With the enactment of Chapter 181, Laws of 1955, am I correct in my assumption that challenge of any voter at the polling place on the day of any primary or election has been limited in the following manner: When such challenge is based solely on the residence of the voter concerned such challenge shall not be honored if said voter has registered or transferred his registration on or before the 60th day prior to the election? In other words ‑ is the date of the registration or transfer of a voter the deciding factor as to whether or not precinct election officers should even consider challenges based solely on grounds of residence?"
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Your question is answered in the negative.
Section 7, chapter 181, Laws of 1955, has amended RCW 29.59.010 to read as follows:
"Registration of a person as a voter shall be presumptive evidence of his right to vote at any election, but any person's right to vote may be challenged at the polls and he may be required then and there to establish his right to vote: Provided, however, That challenges on grounds of residence alone, shall be offered at the office of the appropriate registration officer in the manner as hereinafter provided."
The amending language is contained in the proviso. Whereas prior to this amendment all proper grounds for challenge including that of residence were restricted to being made at the polls, now challenges based on residence alone may also be made "in the manner hereafter provided," language which obviously refers to the procedure set forth in § 9 of the same chapter which provides:
"There is added to chapter 29.59 RCW, a new section to read as follows:
"Any voter may challenge the registration of any other voter on the grounds that the challenged voter does not physically reside and maintain an abode at the address as given on his permanent registration record. Such challenge shall be made in writing and shall be filed with the appropriate registration officer not later than sixty days prior to any primary or election, general or special. The registration officer shall by registered mail immediately notify the voter concerned that a challenge has been made. Upon receipt of such notice, the challenged voter, should the allegation be correct, shall either transfer his registration or register anew, as the case may be, within the time as provided by law. Should [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the challenged voter fail to register anew or transfer his registration within the time prescribed by law, the registration officer shall cancel the registration record and so notify the voter concerned.
"Should the challenged voter deny the allegation, he shall so notify in writing the registration officer who shall immediately notify the challenger and the challenged voter to appear at a meeting to be held in the registration office at a day and hour certain to be stated in the notice. The hearing shall take place not less than two days nor more than five days after the date of such notice.
"At the meeting to be held by the registration officer, he shall hear both parties according to the facts presented and his ruling shall be final, unless ordered otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction. If the challenger fails to appear at the meeting, the registration in question shall remain in full effect. If the challenged voter fails to appear at the meeting, then the registration shall be cancelled and the voter so notified: Provided, however, That any voter who transfers his registration or registers on or after the fifty-ninth day prior to any primary or election, shall be subject to challenge on the grounds of residence alone at the polling place."
We are convinced that the foregoing procedure was not intended to be the exclusive manner provided for challenging a voter's registration, on the ground of residence alone. To so conclude would be to foreclose, in cases where the registration or transfer occurred before the 59th day prior to an election, any possibility whatever of challenging on residence grounds when the facts concerning lack of residence are discovered after the said 59th day. Thus an obviously ineligible voter would be permitted to vote without question.
We think the legislature intended no such result. On the contrary, the amending language contained in the proviso set forth in § 7, chapter 181, Laws of 1955, appears to establish an alternative procedure for handling residence [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] challenges prior to the day of the election without removing the possibility of making such challenges at the polls.
We conclude, therefore, that challenges on the ground of residence alone may presently be made either at the polls on the day of the election or prior thereto when made in accordance with the procedure established by § 9, chapter 181, Laws of 1955.
Very truly yours,
BERNARD G. LONCTOT
Chief Assistant Attorney General