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AGO 1953 No. 4 - April 08, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

IRRIGATION DISTRICTS ‑- ELECTIONS ‑- MANNER OF CHALLENGING THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A PERSON OFFERING TO VOTE IN AN IRRIGATION DISTRICT ELECTION.

The election procedure prescribed for irrigation districts being exclusive, contains no provision allowing the challenge of an individual offering to vote at either annual or special election.

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                                                                    April 8, 1953 

Honorable John N. Leavitt
Prosecuting Attorney
Okanogan County
Okanogan, Washington                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 4

 Dear Sir: 

            This is to acknowledge receipt of your request for an opinion of this office relative to the manner of challenging the qualifications of a person offering to vote at an annual or special election of an irrigation district organized under the provisions of Washington law.

             Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

             The election procedure prescribed for irrigation districts, being exclusive, contains no provision allowing the challenge of an individual offering to vote at either annual or special elections.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             In examining the election procedure prescribed for irrigation districts, we concur with your conclusion that there are no procedures set up specifically allowing the challenge of the vote of an individual offering to vote at either annual or special elections.

             In addition, RCW 87.01.095 specifically provides that:

             "All elections of irrigation districts, general or special, for any district purpose and in any county of the state shall be called, noticed, and conducted in accordance with the laws of the state, specifically relating to irrigation districts."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            RCW 87.01.140 provides in part:

             " * * * the board [of directors] shall appoint for each precinct, from the electors thereof, one inspector and two judges, who shall constitute a board of election for the precinct.  * * *"

             RCW 87.01.150 provides in part:

             "The inspector shall be chairman of the election board, and may administer all oaths required in an election and shall appoint judges and clerks if any judge or clerk ceases to act.  Any member of the election board or any clerk thereof may administer and certify oaths required during the election.  * * *"

             The system of elections in the United States is not of common law origin; the subject is entirely statutory, and the exercise of the right of suffrage is, in all states, regulated by constitutional and statutory provisions.  Taylor v. Beckham, 178 U.S. 548;State v. Superior Court of King County, 71 Wash. 503, 128 Pac. 83;Nalinowski v. Tilley, 147 Wash. 405, 266 Pac. 166.  It is our opinion, therefore, that if the person applying to vote in the irrigation district election is plainly lacking in any of the prescribed qualifications as set forth in RCW 87.01.090, the officers, as part of their inherent powers as election officials, may refuse to receive his vote.

             The text writers indicate that it is the prevailing view that the acts of election officials in receiving and rejecting votes are ministerial, and that the oath taken is conclusive evidence on which the officers must act.  They are not at liberty to refuse to administer the oath or to receive the vote after the oath is taken, and they have no power to pass upon the question of the truth or falsehood of the oath.  See 18 Am.Jur. 327, Elections, § 217.  Thus, if the voter at the election offers his vote to the inspector or election officers and, if challenged, takes the necessary oath, it is the duty of the inspector to receive his vote.  If the law ought to be otherwise, the change should be made by the legislature.  Whitten v. Silverman, 105 Wash. 238, 177 Pac. 737.

             We direct your attention, however, toState ex rel. Holt v. Hamilton, 118 Wash. 91, 202 Pac. 971, which involved a proceeding in quo warranto, seeking to oust a director of an irrigation district upon the grounds that his election to office was secured by votes of certain individuals whose only interest in the land embraced within the district was by reason of certain contracts of purchase held by them.  Although the voters were determined to be qualified, at page 92 our court held that the proceedings in quo warranto were proper.

             It is therefore our opinion that a proceeding of this nature would be the general procedure to be followed by the election board of the district relative to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] challenging votes of individuals offering to vote at either a special or annual election of an irrigation district.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

PHYLLIS DOLVIN
Assistant Attorney General

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