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AGO 1952 No. 337 - June 30, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


Persons residing upon the grounds of Barnes Veterans Administration hospital which was formerly a part of Vancouver Barracks are in an exclusive federal area and do not acquire Washington residence by living there.

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                                                                   June 30, 1952

Honorable DeWitt Jones
Prosecuting Attorney
Clark County
301 Court House
Vancouver, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 337


Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of May 29, 1952, in which you request our opinion as to whether persons residing upon the grounds of Barnes Veterans Administration Hospital may, by such residence, acquire the right to vote in Washington.

            It is our conclusion that a person residing upon the grounds of Barnes Veterans Administration Hospital may not thereby acquire the right to vote in Washington.


            Barnes Veterans Administration Hospital is a federal agency.  As we understand the facts it is located upon land that was formerly included within the military reservation of Vancouver Barracks.  Civilian personnel employed in the hospital reside on these grounds.  We assume that your question deals with persons who were not residents of the State of Washington prior to the time they moved to the grounds of the Barnes Veterans Hospital.  Under section 4, Article VI of our Constitution one neither gains nor loses residence by reason of his presence or absence while in the civil or military service of the United States.  That section reads:

            "For the purpose of voting and eligibility to office, no person shall be deemed to have gained a residence by reason of his presence, or lost it by reason of his absence, while in the civil or military service of the state or of the United States, nor while a student at any institution of learning, nor while kept at public expense at any poorhouse or other asylum, nor while confined in public prison, nor while engaged in the navigation of the waters of this state or of the United States, or of the high seas."

            A change in residence is effected by the concurrence of two elements: physical presence of the person in the new jurisdiction and his intention to remain there indefinitely.  Polk v. Polk, 158 Wash. 242, 290 Pac. 861, Kankelborg v. Kankelborg, 199 Wash. 259, 190 P. (2d) 1018.  In this case the persons are in the civil service of the United States and, under the constitutional section above quoted, their presence solely under those circumstances does not accomplish a change of residence.  However, our supreme court has held that a person who is in this state in government service may, nevertheless, acquire a residence in this state by the consideration of other factors and his living off of a government reservation.  Kankelborg v. Kankelborg, 199 Wash. 259, 190 P. (2d) 1018.

            The question in this case is whether the area upon which these persons reside is a government reservation or is a part of the State of Washington so  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] that they can be said to have physical presence in the state and can acquire residence here by living in that area.

            Vancouver Barracks is a military reservation which was established prior to the adoption of the Washington state constitution.  By Article XXV, section 1, of our state constitution the state consented to the exercise by the United States of exclusive jurisdiction over all lands then held reserved by the government as forts, provided plats of the area were filed for record in the county in which located.  We understand that necessary recording formalities were complied with in reference to Vancouver Barracks, and that military reservation came under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.  Our supreme court in a similar situation held that land on a military reservation where exclusive jurisdiction was ceded to the United States was not a part of the State of Washington.  InConcessions Company v. Morris, 109 Wash. 46, 186 Pac. 655, dealing with the Fort Lewis Military Reservation, our supreme court had before it the question of whether property on the reservation was taxable under the state law.  The court said:

            "Under our law, Rem. Code § 9101, only personal property in the state of Washington can be listed for taxation, and the question, therefore, must be answered by a determination of whether personal property situated upon this military reservation isin the state of Washington.  It seems to us that the answer to this is clear, and that such property iswithout the state in both a jurisdictional and territorial sense, for, as we have seen by the constitution of the United States, and the act of the legislature of this state, both the military reservation itself and the jurisdiction and legislation over it have been granted to the United States, and thereby there has been created an independent sovereignty the territory of which is surrounded by the state of Washington, but over which the state of Washington has no jurisdiction.  A territory has been created which resembles that of the District of Columbia, the only reservation being that the state of Washington can serve civil and criminal process therein on actions arising outside the reservation."

            Under the reasoning of this case the area of Vancouver Barracks is not a part of the State of Washington unless a change has been made in the status of the land when it ceased to be used as a military post.  The fact that a portion of the government reservation is not now used for military purposes does not in itself restore it to state jurisdiction.  InWilliams v. Arlington Hotel Co., 22 F. (2d) 669, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said:

            "The character and purposes of its occupation having been officially and legally established by that branch of the government which has control over such matters, it is not open to the courts, on a question of jurisdiction, to inquire what may  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] be the actual uses to which any portion of the reservation is temporarily put."

            We have checked the records in the office of the governor and have found nothing on file to indicate the surrender of exclusive jurisdiction or a recession to the State of Washington.  The rule is stated in 65 C.J. 1259:

            "Jurisdiction acquired by Congress may be relinquished by it and receded to the state but cannot be resumed by the state without the consent of Congress."

            Under our constitution the Vancouver Barracks area was recognized to be an exclusive federal area.  Our court has held that such an area is not within the state of Washington.  There has been no cession of jurisdiction by the federal government to the state and the land continues to be held by the federal government.

            It is, therefore, our opinion that the area remains exclusive federal territory and one may not acquire Washington residence by living there.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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