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AGO 1953 No. 498 - March 23, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

CENSUS ‑- COUNTIES ‑- CLASSIFICATION OF ‑- TIME LIMITATION.

RCW 36.13.020 is not violated by the commencement of census work 11 days prior to the expiration of the three‑year waiting period required by the statute provided the census work is not completed until after the three years have expired, since the term "made" imports completion of the census enumeration.

In determining whether a county has sufficient population to rate a change of classification under chapter 36.13 RCW, the State Census Board may not forego obtaining the name, age, and occupation, if any, of each person resident in the county, but rather must strictly comply with the procedure set forth in RCW 36.13.030 for taking county censuses.

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                                                                  March 23, 1953 

Mr. Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Research & Services
University of Washington
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 498

 Dear Sir:

             We are in receipt of your letter of March 11, 1953, in which you present the following questions:

             "1. In view of the fact that RCW 36.13.020 provides that 'no county census enumeration shall be made . . . within the three years next following a federal census.' (April 1, 1953), may the State Census Board commence the census work in Chelan County on March 20, 1953 (11 days less than the three years following the 1950 federal census) and complete the work thereon during the first week of April, 1953, bearing in mind that findings of the State Census Board would be approved by the Board of County Commissioners after April 1, 1953 and certified by the State Census Board after April 1, 1953, which would be a few days in excess  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of the three year period after the 1950 federal census was completed?

             "2. In determining whether or not Chelan County has a population of 40,000 so as to qualify for a change in classification from fourth to third class under RCW 36.13.010, may the State Census Board forego obtaining the 'name, age, and occupation, if any, of each person resident in the county' specified in RCW 36.13.010 and determine the population of Chelan County by using current population estimating techniques, sample census, and other reliable and economical procedures that are deemed appropriate by the State Census Board?"

             Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

             RCW 36.13.020 is not violated by the commencement of census work eleven days prior to the expiration of the three‑year waiting period required by the statute provided the census work is notcompleted until after the three years have expired, since the term "made" imports completion of the census enumeration.

           In determining whether a county has sufficient population to rate a change of classification under chapter 36.13 RCW, the State Census Board may not forego obtaining the name, age, and occupation, if any, of each person resident in the county, but rather must strictly comply with the procedure set forth in RCW 36.13.030 for taking county censuses.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             The applicable portion of the statute which must be interpreted to answer your first question is set forth in that question.  We are of the opinion that the clause "no census shall be made with in three years" contemplates that no census shall be "completed" within that period.  26 Words & Phrases, Perm., 27, and the cases there cited, are authority for the proposition that the term "made" imports completion.

             It is our conclusion that if the proposed census is not completed until the expiration of the three‑year period, it is legal, and if it fulfills the requirements of a county census, set forth in RCW 36.13.030, it may be the basis for a change of classification for Chelan County.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Your second question contemplates a departure from the express provisions of the statute.  RCW 36.13.010 sets forth the various classifications of counties within different population groups.  RCW 36.13.020 authorizes a county census which must be taken as a prerequisite to changing from one classification to another.  RCW 36.13.030 provides, in part:

             "The census shall give the full name, age, and occupation, if any, of each person resident in the county * * *."  (Emphasis supplied)

             This statute is mandatory in its specifications of the contents of a county census. RCW 36.13.050 provides that a change of classification of a county shall be based upon such special county census.  There are no other provisions in the statutes for a change of classification.

             It is well established in this state that where the legislature has provided a method of determining population, that method is exclusive.  SeeState ex rel. Cornell v. Smith, 149 Wash. 173, at 178, 270 Pac. 306, and cases there cited.  The conclusion is unavoidable that unless a census meets the requirements of a county census set forth in RCW 36.13.030, it cannot be the basis for a change of classification.

             We have studied carefully the letter from the executive secretary of the State Census Board, which you enclosed.  We recognize that the requirements set forth in RCW 36.13.030 are probably somewhat rigorous and under present conditions cumbersome.  We realize that many new census techniques have been developed since the enactment of this statute in 1923.  However, these circumstances can have no bearing or effect upon our determination of what the statute requires.  We have no authority to change existing law‑-we can only interpret it.  The undesirability of the present law is a condition that should be pointed out to the legislature.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

WILLIAM C. HALLIN
Assistant Attorney General

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