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AGO 1951 No. 456 - February 24, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS ‑- CHANGES OF BOUNDARIES TIED IN WITH CHANGES OF BOUNDARY OF CITY.

Boundaries of legislative districts may not be defined in relation to a city's boundary in such a manner as to automatically change the boundaries of legislative districts upon a change in the city boundary.

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                                                                February 24, 1951

Senator Vaughan Brown
Washington State Senate
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 456

Dear Sir:

            By your letter of February 21, 1951, you ask our opinion on the question:

            "May the boundaries of legislative districts be fixed in accordance with the boundary of a city, in such a manner that the district will automatically change as the city changes?"

            Our conclusion is:

            Boundaries of legislative districts may not be defined in relation to a city's boundary in such a manner as to automatically change the boundaries of legislative districts upon a change in the city boundary.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 3, Article II, of the State Constitution provides:

            "The legislature shall provide by law for an enumeration of the inhabitants of the state in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, and every ten years thereafter; and at the first  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] session after such enumeration, and alsoafter each enumeration, made by the authority of the United States, the legislature shall apportion and district anew the members of the senate and house of representatives,according to the number of inhabitants, excluding Indians not taxed, soldiers, sailors, and officers of the United States army and navy in active service."  (Emphasis added)

            Under this constitutional provision, the apportionment by which the boundaries by legislative districts are established must be made according to the number of inhabitants in the state.  State ex rel. Warson v. Howell, 92 Wash. 540, 543; 159 Pac. 777.  A change in apportionment is a matter of law requiring a legislative act.  State ex rel. Miller v. Hinkle, 156 Wash. 289, 292; 286 Pac. 839.  The Constitution expressly provides that reapportionment shall be made "after each enumeration of the inhabitants of the state."

            A statute which would provide for automatic changes in the boundaries of legislative districts upon changes in the boundaries of a city, would not only lead to confusion, but would in effect, permit the action of the city in changing its boundaries to change the boundaries of the legislative districts.  This clearly would violate the constitutional provisions which require such changes to be made by legislative act.  It also would violate the intent and purpose of the act that only one change in apportionment shall be made after each authorized census, as there might well be numerous changes in the city boundary between the taking of the enumeration referred to.

            Likewise, any such method of changing the boundaries of legislative districts would violate the fundamental requirement of the Constitution that changes in apportionment be tied in with and based on changes in the number of inhabitants of the state.  A change in the boundary of a city would have no relation in the changes to the population of the state.

            We, therefore, are of the opinion that any such method of changing the boundaries of legislative districts as that referred to in your letter would be a clear violation of section 3, Article II of the State Constitution.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

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