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AGO 1950 No. 305 - July 20, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

CONSTITUTION ‑- PROVISIONS AS TO PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION TO VOTERS OF MEASURES AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS REFERRED TO PEOPLE.

Constitutional provisions for publication of proposed amendments to constitution, and of measures referred to the people are mandatory, and compliance with such provisions is a necessary prerequisite to the validity of such amendments and measures.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 20, 1950

Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 305

Dear Sir:

            We quote substantially your letter of July 19, 1950, requesting an opinion of this office as follows:

            "Two proposed constitutional amendments; namely S.J.R. No. 9 and H.J.R. No. 10 have been referred by the 1949 Legislature to the voters for their approval or rejection at the November 7, 1950 state general election.

            Section 1, Article XXIII of the State Constitution provides in part

            "'* * * the Legislature shall also cause the amendments that are to be submitted to the people to be published for at least 3 months next preceding the election, in some weekly newspaper in every county where a newspaper is published throughout the state.'

            "Chapters 229, 230 and 231, Laws of 1949, have also been referred to the November 7, 1950 state general election.  Pursuant to R.R.S. 5416 my office has identified these measures as Referendum Bills 7, 8 and 9, respectively.  These measures propose bond issues in the accumulative amount of eighty million dollars.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Section 3, Article VIII of the State Constitution provides in part:

            "'* * * such law shall be published in at least one newspaper in each county, if one be published therein, throughout the state, for 3 months next preceding the election at which it is submitted to the people.'

            "In addition to the above, Referendum Measure No. 28 has been certified to the 1950 state general election ballot by my office.  Furthermore, sponsors of the Initiative Measures Nos. 176 and 178 have presented in excess of 104,000 and 94,000 signatures, respectively, and it appears certain that these measures will also be certified to the 1950 state general election ballot.  The last paragraph of the 7th Amendment to the State Constitution provides as follows:

            "'the Legislature shall provide methods of publicity of all laws or parts of laws, and amendments to the constitution referred to the people with arguments for and against the laws and amendments so referred, so that each voter of the state shall receive the publication at least fifty days before the election at which they are to be voted upon.'

            "Assuming that these measures and propositions appearing upon the 1950 state general election ballot receive a favorable majority vote, would their validity be in jeopardy should:

            1.  The Secretary of State fail to advertise the measures as provided by the above constitutional provisions?

            2.  The Secretary of State fail to publish the official voters' pamphlet containing the measures and consequently fail to mail same to the registered voters of the state?"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The provisions of Section 1, Article XXIII, of Section 3, Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Washington and the provisions of the last paragraph of the 7th Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Washington relating to the publication and distribution of proposed constitutional amendments, Referendum and Initiative Measures, are mandatory and compliance with such provisions is a prerequisite to the validity of any such amendment or measure.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The provisions of Section 1, Article XXIII, of Section 3, Article VIII of the Washington Constitution; and of the last paragraph of the 7th Amendment to the Washington Constitution referred to, all use the term "shall", which is clearly mandatory as distinguished from directory.  State ex rel. Billington v. Sinclair, 28 Wn. (2d) 575, 581, 183 P. (2d) 813.

            Compliance with such mandatory steps in the adoption of constitutional amendments and initiative and referendum measures is a prerequisite to the validity of such measures.  In construing the provisions of the above quoted portions of the 7th Amendment of the Constitution of the State of Washington, our Supreme Court has said:

            "Viewed as a fundamental principle of orderly constitutional government, nothing seems more important than that the mandates of the constitution touching the procedure to be followed in bringing about changes therein by amendment should be followed by those to whom such mandates are directed.  * * *"

            Gottstein v. Lister, 88 Wash. 462, 480, 153 Pac. 595.

            The same principle is applicable in the construction and interpretation of each of the constitutional provisions herein under consideration, all of which are mandatory.

            It is therefore our opinion, and we so advise, that failure on your part to publish the proposed constitutional amendments and the measures pursuant to the constitutional provisions herein referred to would be to omit a step necessary to their validity.  Likewise, failure on your part to publish and to distribute the official voters' pamphlets to the registered voters of the state would invalidate such amendments and measures.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            With respect to the measure proposing bond issues, failure to fully comply with the constitutional provisions involved would unquestionably result in an unfavorable reaction on the part of financial institutions which might otherwise be interested in the purchase of such issues.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE H. HOLT
Chief AssistantAttorney General

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