ELECTIONS -- CLOSING REGISTRATION
Each election to be considered separately for purposes of closing registration and giving notice thereof.
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January 4, 1950
Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 49-51 No. 189
You have requested the opinion of this office as to whether the thirty day prohibition upon voting registration imposed by § 2, chapter 68, Laws of 1947 (§ 5114-9 Rem. Supp. 1947) applies to all elections falling within that or an overlapping period or whether each election is to be considered separately for purposes of closing registration files and giving notice thereof.
As stated in your request:
"* * * is the 30 day period for closure and the extra 15 days for transfer a restriction tailored to each individual primary or election so that the files may be closed for one election, but registration would be possible during this period for a subsequent election * * *
"Should you answer in the affirmative to the above -are we correct in assuming that the respective county auditors should publish an individual notice of the closing of the registration files for each primary or election?
"Should your answer be in the negative - can the respective county auditors publish one master notice listing the elections concerned and stating the over all closure period * * *."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Our conclusion is that each election in any precinct is to be considered separately for purposes of closing registration files and giving notice thereof.
Section 2, chapter 68, Laws of 1947 (5114-9 Rem. Supp. 1947) provides:
"The registration files of all precincts shall be closed against original registration or transfer for thirty (30) days immediately preceding every election and primary to be held in such precincts, respectively, but they shall remain open for an additional fifteen (15) days for transfers of registration from one precinct within a city to another precinct in the same city and for transfers of registration from one rural precinct to another rural precinct in the same county. The County Auditor shall give notice of the closing of said files for original registration and transfer by one publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such county at least five (5) days before such closing."
Chapter 161, Laws of 1949, fixes the following dates for elections in second to ninth class counties: All school elections are to be held on the first Saturday in February (February 4, 1950); city general elections are to be held on the second Tuesday of March (March 14, 1950); and city primary elections are to be held four weeks prior to the city general elections (February 14, 1950). These dates fall within the same or consecutive thirty-day closure periods, viz., in many precincts, the closure period for the first election will not expire until that for a subsequent election begins. If § 5114-9 Rem. Supp. 1947 is interpreted to mean that registration files are to be closed for thirty days preceding the first of several successive electionsand that they may not be reopened for registration where the thirty-day closure period for any election is still in force, voters in many precincts would be unable to register during a sixty-nine day period beginning January 4, 1950, and ending March 15, 1950. In addition, no transfers of registration would be possible in such precincts for a fifty-four day period beginning January 19, 1950, and ending March 15, 1950.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Such an interpretation places an unwarranted emphasis upon registration and operates as an undue penalty upon the voter who, through forgetfulness, procrastination or other cause, might be deprived of his right to vote at any one of several successive elections. Laws relating to the registration of voters are to be so construed as to avoid depriving individuals of the elective franchise. 3 Sutherland, Statutory Construction (3rd ed.) § 5820. Accordingly, we hold that the thirty-day period during which registration files are closed applies only with respect to each individual election, and each election is to be considered independent of any other for the purpose of closing registration of voters.
It naturally follows that the notice of closing registration files should be handled in the same manner. We feel that you are correct in your assumption that the respective county auditors should publish such notice at least five days preceding the closing of registration for each individual election.
Very truly yours,
JOHN D. BLANKINSHIP
Assistant Attorney General