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AGO 1950 No. 222 - February 21, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS -- JOINT SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Date and jurisdiction of joint school district elections is determined by use of statutory formula for determining to which one of several counties the district belongs.

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                                                                February 21, 1950

Honorable Pearl A. Wanamaker
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 222

Attention:  !ttMr. G. W. Van Horn
            Legal Consultant

Dear Madam:

            Your request for our opinion raises the following questions:

            1. When are elections in joint school districts to be held?

            2. Who are the officers having jurisdiction to conduct and canvass elections in joint school districts?

            Our conclusions are:  A joint school district must first be identified with one of the counties in which it is located (referred to herein as the "principal" county) by application of the statutory formula provided by § 4693-46 Rem. Supp. 1947.  Then the following results obtain:

            1. Joint school districts which are found to belong to a Class A or first class county hold elections on the second Tuesday of March, are conducted by the county auditor, and the election results are canvassed by the county canvassing board;

            2. Joint school districts lying within two first class counties, or within a Class A and a first class county, hold elections on the second Tuesday of March and under supervision of the auditor of the principal county.  The canvassing board of the "principal" county receives the returns from the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] canvassing boards of the other counties involved and compiles the final tabulation.  In this case, however, the fact that each county has other elections at the same time may demand a delegation of duties as to those functions to be performed in the county other than the "principal" one.

            3. Where it is determined that joint school districts belong to second to ninth class counties, elections will be held on the first Saturday in February and will be conducted and canvassed by the local school officials.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Under the 1949 election law, school district elections in Class A and first class counties are held on the second Tuesday of March, are conducted by the county auditor, as ex-officio supervisor of elections, and the results thereof are canvassed by the County Canvassing Board of Election Returns.  Sections 1 and 5, chapter 161, Laws of 1949 (§§ 5144 and 5153-1 Rem. Supp. 1949).  School elections in second to ninth class counties are held on the first Saturday of February and are conducted and canvassed by the local district officers normally charged with the conduct of such elections, in this case, the school directors and clerk of the school district.  (See §§ 5150 and 5153-1 Rem. Supp. 1949).  Since joint school districts overlap county boundaries, and are often comprised of territory within various classes of counties, the following question is presented: Under chapter 161, Laws of 1949, when are joint school district elections to be held, and who are the officials charged with the duty of conducting and canvassing them?

            Section 27, chapter 266, Laws of 1947 (4693-46 Rem. Supp. 1947) provides a formula for identifying a joint school district with one of the two or more counties in which it is located.  That statute provides:

            "For all purposes essential to the maintenance, operation, and administration of the schools of a district, including the apportionment of current state and county school funds, a joint school district shall be considered as belonging to the county in which the high school of said district is situated, or in case no high school is operated by the district, to the county in which is situated the school house of the district or the school with the largest attendance, if there be more than one (1) school house.  If there is no school house in the joint district, said district shall  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] then be considered as belonging to the county in which is located that part of the district having the largest number of children of school age residing therein."

            Applying this formula to the various possible situations, we will have the following results:

                                                                             I.
            In joint school districts in a Class A or a first class county and a second to ninth class county, a reference to § 4693-46 Rem. Supp. 1947,supra, will identify the school district as being a part of one of the counties.  If it is determined that the district belongs to a Class A or first class county, the election must be held on the second Tuesday in March and the county auditor of that county must conduct and supervise the election.  He must publish all the required notices incident to the election even though this involves performing functions in other counties.  The canvassing board of the principal county must canvas the election results throughout the joint school district even though part of that territory is in another county.  These officials are authorized to go outside the normal territorial limits of their jurisdiction under § 4693-46 Rem. Supp. 1947, supra, which provides that where it is necessary for administrative purposes, the joint school district is to be considered as belonging to that county which is determined to be the "principal" county through application of the statutory formula.  "Belong to" is defined in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 5th edition, as a "part of" or "classified with."  Thus, for the limited purpose of conducting an election in a joint school district, part of which territory lies in another county, the county officials in the "principal" county are acting as though they were at all times within their own territorial limits.  The county election officials in the Class A or first class county may deputize the school directors to assist in conducting and canvassing the election in that part of the district outside the Class A or first class county, but their participation is not necessary.

            If the "principal" county is determined to be a second to ninth class county, the local district officials do everything necessary in the conduct and canvas of the joint school district election pursuant to § 5153-1 Rem. Supp. 1949, supra.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

                                                                            II.
            Where a joint school district encompasses territory of two or more Class A or first class counties the election will be held on the second Tuesday in March, under the jurisdiction of the county auditor of the county to which the district belongs.  However, a unique problem is presented in this case.  The election date in this case is the same as that fixed for other district and municipal elections in each county.  The school election must be held in such a manner that it will not disturb the integration of the various elections being held at that time in each of these counties.  It might be found advisable for the auditor of the principal county to delegate to the auditors of the other counties the duty of conducting within their respective counties the school elections.  We see no reason why such delegation cannot take place.  The election will thus actually be conducted by the auditor of the principal county and canvassed by the canvassing board of election returns of that county.

                                                                            III.
            In joint school districts located in two or more second to ninth class counties, the election will be held on the first Saturday in February and will be conducted and canvassed by the local school district officials pursuant to § 5153-1 Rem. Supp. 1949, supra.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JOHN D. BLANKINSHIP
Assistant Attorney General

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