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AGO 1953 No. 479 - February 06, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS ‑- GENERAL ELECTIONS ‑- DEFINITION.  SCHOOL DISTRICT ELECTIONS ‑- AS GENERAL ELECTION.

 1. A general election is an election required to be held on a fixed date recurring at regular intervals.

 2. The term "general election" as used in the Seventeenth Amendment to the state constitution includes a school district election if the statute governing the election requires that it be held on a fixed date at regular intervals.

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                                                                 February 6, 1953 

Honorable Ole H. Olson
House of Representatives
Sixteenth District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 479

 Dear Sir:

             Receipt of your letter of January 26, 1953, requesting our opinion regarding the construction of the term "general election" as used in the Seventeenth Amendment to the state constitution, is hereby acknowledged.  Your letter indicates that you desire to obtain our views upon two separate questions, which we phrase as follows:

             1. What is the definition of "general election" as the term is used in the Seventeenth Amendment to the state constitution?

             2. If RCW 84.52.052 were amended to read "general election," would the term be broad enough to include a school district election held pursuant to statute?

             Our conclusions may be stated as follows:

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            1. General election means an election required to be held on a fixed date recurring at regular intervals.

             2. The term "general election" as used in the Seventeenth Amendment is broad33 enough to include a school district election if the statute governing the election requires that it be held on a fixed date at regular intervals.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             Your attention is directed to RCW 29.01.070 which defines the term "general election" in the exact words set forth in our first conclusion above.  This provision was never enacted by the legislature, but was taken from the language of the opinion of the supreme court in the case ofRobb v. Tacoma, 175 Wash. 580, at the bottom of page 593.  This case was decided in 1933, prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment.

             We have found only one case decided since the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, where this issue has been discussed.  That is the case ofUnion High School District No. 1 v. Taxpayers of Union High School District No. 1, 26 Wn. (2d) 1, 172 P. (2d) 591, where the court merely assumed that a particular election was a general election, under the rule laid down in theRobb case.  It is our opinion that, when this constitutional amendment was adopted, the voters adopted the prior judicial interpretation which had been applied to the term.  We conclude that the definition of the term "general election" as used in the Seventeenth Amendment should be the same as that set forth in the case of Robb v. Tacoma, and in our conclusion above.

             Secondly, you ask what interpretation this office would place upon that term if RCW 84.52.052 (pertaining to school district elections) were amended to read "* * * forty percent of the votes cast in said taxing district who voted at the last preceding general election * * *" as distinguished from the present language of the statute, which is "the last precedinggeneral state election."  Particularly, you wish to know whether the forty percent requirement would then be dependent upon the number of votes cast in a regular school district election held pursuant to the statute.

             The definition of the term "general election" as taken fromRobb v. Tacoma, is broad enough to include a school district election if the statute under which it is held requires such an election to be held upon a fixed date at regular intervals.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The statute here in question has been before the supreme court of Washington on one occasion.  InUnion High School District No. 1 v. Taxpayers of Union High School District No. 1, supra, the constitutionality of the act was attacked upon another ground.  The court assumed, without deciding, that the election therein provided for was a "general election" within the meaning of the Seventeenth Amendment.  Robb v. Tacoma, was relied upon in support of the assumption.

             In State ex rel. Griffin v. Superior Court, 70 Wash. 545, 127 Pac. 120, it was held that the words "last general election" as used in a 1919 law meant "* * * any general election at which there has been a general and popular expression of the public will, whether that election be a state, county or city election.  * * *"  The court went on to hold that a city election was a "general election" within the meaning of the statute.  To the same effect see,State ex rel. Forgues v. Superior Court, 70 Wash. 671, 127 Pac. 313.  The court has also held that a city election was a general election within the meaning of Const. Article XI, section 10. SeeState ex rel. Wiesenthal v. Denny, 4 Wash. 135, 29 Pac. 991;Wade v. Tacoma, 4 Wash. 85, 29 Pac. 983; Seattle v. Clark, 28 Wash. 717, 69 Pac. 407; and, Hartig v. Seattle, 53 Wash. 432, 102 Pac. 408.

             It is our opinion that a school district election held pursuant to a statute such as RCW 84.52.052, would be a "general election" within the meaning of the Seventeenth Amendment to the state constitution.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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