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AGLO 1973 No. 69 - June 25, 1973
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
ELECTIONS ‑- COUNTY ‑- AUDITOR ‑- RESIGNATION
 
Where an incumbent county auditor elected in November of 1970, for a four-year term commencing in January of 1971, retired from that office on January 31, 1973, and was succeeded by a person appointed by the board of county commissioners in accordance with Article II, § 15 (Amendment 52) to the state Constitution, an election for the remainder of the unexpired term will be required on November 6, 1973, in accordance with § 1, chapter 4, Laws of 1973. 
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                                                                   June 25, 1973
  
Honorable Edward G. Ellis
State Representative, 14th District
304 North 61st Avenue
Yakima, Washington 98902
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 69
 
 
Dear Sir:
 
            This is written in response to your recent letter asking whether, under certain circumstances described therein, an election will be required to be held for the office of Yakima county auditor on November 6, 1973.
 
            We answer this question in the affirmative.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            You have advised that Mr. Eugene Naff, who was elected in November of 1970 for a four-year term as auditor of Yakima county commencing in January of 1971, retired from that office on January 31, 1973.  Thereupon he was succeeded by Mr. Chet Hatfield, who was appointed to the position by the Yakima county commissioners in accordance with Article II, § 15 (Amendment 52) to the state Constitution.
 
            Your question is whether Mr. Hatfield is entitled, by virtue of this appointment, to serve for the full remainder of Mr. Naff's unexpired term ‑ i.e., until January of 1975 ‑ or whether the position will be required to be filled by an election in November of the current year.  In responding, we note, first, the pertinent language of the above cited section of the Constitution, under which Mr. Hatfield was appointed.  Article II, § 15 (Amendment 52), supra, reads, in material part, as follows:
 
            "Such vacancies as may occur in . . . any partisan county elective office shall be filled by appointment by the board of county commissioners of the county in which the vacancy occurs:  . . . and the person so  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] appointed shall hold office until his successor is elected at the next general election, and shall have qualified:  . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            From the underscored portion of this excerpt it will readily be apparent that a person appointed to fill a vacancy in a partisan county elective office does not, thereby, automatically serve for the full remainder of the unexpired term involved; instead, he merely serves until his successor is elected at the next general election.  The question then becomes that of whether the state general election to be held on November 6, 1973, in accordance with the recently enacted provisions of chapter 4, Laws of 1973, will constitute "the next general election" for the purposes of this constitutional provision.
 
            By its enactment of chapter 4, Laws of 1973, the legislature provided for the conduct of so-called "annual general elections" ‑ basically, by amending the preexisting provisions of RCW 29.13.010 to read as follows:
 
            "All state, county, city, town, and district general elections for the election of federal, state, legislative, judicial, county, city, town, district, and precinct officers, and for the submission to the voters of the state of any measure for their adoption and approval or rejection, shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, in the year in which they may be called.  A state‑wide [[statewide]]general election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November of each year:  Provided, That the statewide general election held in odd-numbered years shall be limited to (1) city, town, and district general elections as provided for in RCW 29.13.020, or as otherwise provided by law; (2) the election of state and county officers for the remainder of any unexpired terms as provided for in Article II, section l5, Article III,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] section 10, and Article IV, sections 3 and 5 of the state Constitution; (3) the election of county officers in any county governed by a charter containing provisions calling for general county elections at this time; and (4) the approval or rejection of state measures, including proposed constitutional amendments, matters pertaining to any proposed constitutional convention, initiative measures and referendum measures proposed by the electorate, referendum bills, and any other matter provided by the legislature for submission to electorate: Provided further, That this section shall not be construed as fixing the time for holding primary elections, or elections for the recall of county, city, town, or district officers; nor special elections to fill vacancies in the membership of either branch of the congress of the United States:  Provided however, That the board of county commissioners may, if they deem an emergency to exist, call a special county election at any time by presenting a resolution to the county auditor at least forty-five days prior to the proposed election date.  Such county special election shall be noticed and conducted in the manner provided by law."
 
            The critical portion of this amendment, insofar as it pertains to your immediate question, is the second clause of the proviso which expressly states that included among the matters to be voted upon at the state‑wide [[statewide]]general election to be held in odd-numbered years (e.g., 1973) will be ". . . the election of state and county officers for the remainder of any unexpired terms as provided for in Article II, section 15, Article III, section 10, and Article IV, section 3 and 5 of the state Constitution; . . ."
 
            Of these several cited provisions of the Constitution the first, of course, is that which we have above quoted with respect to the filling of vacancies in partisan county elective offices such, of course, as that of county auditor.  Therefore, there can be no doubt but  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] that the direct answer to your question is that under the factual circumstances described in your letter, an election will be required to be held on November 6, 1973, for the remainder of the unexpired term of Mr. Eugene Naff as Yakima county auditor.
 
            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General
 
 
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General
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