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AGO 1956 No. 280 - May 31, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


When there are no more than two candidates for one judicial office, no primary is held and both names appear on the general election ballot.

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                                                                   May 31, 1956

Honorable Hugh C. Todd
Judge of the Superior Court
County-City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 280

Dear Sir:

            Your letter of May 14, 1956, previously acknowledged, presented a procedural problem concerning the election of judges of the superior court.  Prior to the legislature's passing § 1, chapter 101, Laws of 1955, when there were no more than two candidates for a judicial office, both candidates appeared on the primary ballot.  The candidate receiving the highest number of votes would then go on the general election ballot unopposed.

            Your question may be phrased in two parts as follows:

            (1) Under RCW 29.21.180 (§ 1, chapter 101, Laws of 1955), when there are no more than two candidates for any one judicial post, are both candidates placed upon the general election ballot?

            (2) Does RCW 29.21.180 (1955 Supp.) repeal RCW 29.21.150, the section under which judicial elections formerly were held?

            We answer question 1 in the affirmative and question 2 in the negative.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


            Section 1, chapter 101, Laws of 1955, reads as follows:

            "There is added to chapter 29.21 RCW, a new section to read as follows:

            "No primary shall be held in any nonpartisan or judicial, state, county or precinct office if, after the last day allowed for candidates to withdraw, there are no more than two candidates filed for each position to be filled.  In such event all candidates concerned shall be notified.  Names of candidates that would have been printed upon the primary ballot, but for the provisions of this act, shall be printed upon the general election ballot alphabetically in groups under the designation of the respective titles of the offices for which they are candidates."

            We feel that the statute is clear and unambiguous; the mere fact that § 2 of the act expressly amends a prior act of the same legislature and applies to nonpartisan elections in cities creates no ambiguity.  Our court inSmith v. Department of Labor and Industries, 8 Wn. (2d) 587, 593, quoted with approval the general rule expressed in Lewis v. United States, 92 U.S. 618, 621, 23 L.Ed. 513, to-wit:

            "Where the language of a statute is transparent, and its meaning clear, there is no room for the office of construction.  There should be no construction where there is nothing to construe. . . ."

            In our opinion, the 1955 act plainly states that in cases where there are no more than two candidates for any one judicial post, there shall be no primary election for that office.  Both candidates shall appear on the general election ballot.  We are aware of the fact that this places a burden not hitherto existing upon the many excellent men who have served so ably as judges in the past, and we sympathize with their position.  This however, would scarcely justify us in disregarding the plain words of the statute.

            We next come to the question of a possible repeal of RCW 29.21.150 by  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] RCW 29.21.180 (1955 Supp.).  There are no express words of repeal contained in the latter section; consequently, any repeal must be by implication.  Repeals by implication are not favored.  State ex rel. Oregon R. & N. Co. v Clausen, 63 Wash. 535, 539.  Where two or more sections are in pari materia, they must be construed together so as to maintain the integrity of each.  State ex rel. Chesterley v. Superior Court, 19 Wn. (2d) 791, 797.  There is no irreconcilable conflict existing between the two sections under consideration here.  When a situation arises wherein more than two candidates file for the same judicial office, the names of all the candidates for the office are placed on the primary ballot.  The election then proceeds under the procedure set forth in RCW 29.21.150, and the names of the two persons receiving the highest number of votes will appear on the general election ballot.  If, however, one of the three or more aspirants should receive a majority of the votes cast at the primary, his name alone will appear on the general election ballot.  RCW 29.21.180 (1955 Supp.) is applicable only when there are no more than two candidates; in this event there is no primary election for the office, and both names appear on the general election ballot.  The two sections can, and should, be read in harmony.

            We hope that the foregoing opinion will be helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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