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AGO 1956 No. 240 - April 03, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOLS, ELECTIONS, POLLING PLACES, VACATIONS. 

The directors of a school district must make school facilities available for use as polling places at the request of the county auditor on the dates of a state primary or general election.  A school vacation may be declared by the school directors if necessary to comply with the auditor's request.  School facilities for use by tallying crews must also be made available when needed.

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                                                                    April 3, 1956

Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 240

 Attention:  !ttMr. Kenneth N. Gilbert
            Deputy Secretary of State

Dear Sir:
            You have requested our opinion upon the following questions:

            1. Are the provisions of chapter 201, Laws of 1955, [RCW 29.48.007 (1955 Supp.)] mandatory so that the board of directors of a school district is required to make school facilities available for use as polling places when requested to do so by the county auditor?

             2. Assuming an affirmative answer to the above question, are the school directors required to make such facilities available even if this action would result in the necessity of having a school vacation?

             3. Would the school directors also be required to furnish school facilities for the tallying crew who are required to count ballots on the day of the election in accordance with chapter 148, Laws of 1955, [RCW 29.54.030 et seq. (1955 Supp.),]?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            All of your questions are answered in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS 

            1. RCW 29.48.007 (1955 Supp.) provides:

             "The board of directors of each school district shall cooperate with the county auditor by making schools available for use as polling places on the dates on which state primary and state general elections are held.  When in the judgment of the county auditor the voters will be best served thereby, he shall notify the board of directors of the school district of the number of schoolrooms desired for use as polling places.  The board of directors in cooperation with the county auditor shall designate the schools, schoolrooms or school facilities to be made available for use as such polling places and shall make such schools, schoolrooms or school facilities available for that purpose.  Payment for said polling places shall be made as provided by law."

             The recurring use in this legislation of the term "shall" convinces us that its provisions are to be construed as mandatory.  Faunce v. Carter, 26 Wn. (2d) 211, 173 P. (2d) 526.  Thus, school directors are required to make school facilities available for use as polling places on the dates on which state primary and state general elections are held, when notified to do so by the county auditor.

             The statute makes it clear that the function of deciding the extent of the facilities required is given to the county auditor, while the function of designating the particular school facilities to be employed as polling places is assigned to the school directors.  The term "cooperation" seems to have been used in recognition of this division of function between the auditor and the directors.  The school boards' duty to make available facilities which will adequately meet the need for polling places as determined by the county auditor remains mandatory.

             2. Except for those legally recognized holidays which are specified in RCW 28.02.060, the statutes of this state are silent with respect to the question of when  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] school vacations may be authorized.  Moreover, there is no indication in the statutes concerning the administrative body empowered to designate particular times as school vacations.  There is merely a provision that all school districts in this state shall maintain school during at least six months each year.  RCW 28.58.180.

             Through long established practice, however, the board of directors of each school district has fixed the times for school vacations in their district.  This practice has permitted considerable latitude to the districts in designating vacations to meet local contingencies arising from weather conditions, planting and packing seasons, teachers' meeting, etc.

            Inasmuch as the designation of a school vacation is an administrative decision ordinarily made by the local school directors, we think the mandatory effect of chapter 201, Laws of 1955, implies that the directors must designate an election day as a vacation, if such action is clearly necessary in order to make available sufficient school facilities for use as polling places in compliance with the notice from the county auditor.

            3. Under the provisions of chapter 148, Laws of 1955, the counting of ballots in some precincts shall commence prior to the closing of the polls.  In such a case, the counting of ballots must be conducted in private.  In order to do this, it is obvious that the persons authorized to make the count must carry on their duties in a room separate and apart from the room designated for use by the voters in casting their ballots.  Moreover, § 4, chapter 14,, Laws of 1955, [RCW 29.54.030 (1955 Supp.)], provides in part:

             "The counting of ballots while the polls are open shall in all cases be conducted in private except that any recognized political party may appoint a duly accredited representative to witness the counting of ballots:  Provided, That such representatives shall first sign an oath of secrecy and shall not leave the polling place during the polling hours.  * * *"

             It seems apparent from reading this provision that the legislature intended by the use of the term "polling place" to include the rooms furnished to the tallying crew for private counting while the polls remain open.

             Turning now to chapter 201, Laws of 1955, respecting the use of school facilities as "polling places," we are convinced that this act should be examined in the  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] light of the changes made in the counting procedure by chapter 148, Laws of 1955.  Thus, we believe that a fair construction of the term "polling place" in chapter 201, Laws of 1955, would include school facilities to be used by tallying crews conducting a private count in accordance with § 4, chapter 148, Laws of 1955.

             We therefore reach the conclusion that school directors are required to furnish at the request of the county auditor school facilities adequate for use by tallying crews who will commence counting ballots prior to closing the polls as well as facilities to be used by voters in casting their ballots.  The two kinds of facilities taken together comprise a "polling place" within the intendment of the legislature in enacting chapter 201, and chapter 148, Laws of 1955.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

J. CALVIN SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

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