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August 23, 1972
Honorable A. L. Rasmussen
State Senator, 29th District
5415 A Street
Tacoma, Washington 98408
Cite as: AGLO 1972 No. 67 (not official)
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion with regard to the authority of a county auditor to place a certain bond proposition of the city of Tacoma upon the September 19, 1972, election ballot where the request to the city council to place this matter before the people is submitted to the auditor less than forty-five days prior to that date.
Within the body of your letter you have quoted from RCW 29.13.020. The full text of the concluding paragraph of this statute, which is pertinent to your inquiry, reads as follows:
"The county auditor, as ex officio supervisor of elections, upon request in the form of a resolution of the governing body of a city, town or district, presented to him at least forty-five days prior to the proposed election date, may, if he deems an emergency to exist, call a special election at any time in such city, town, or district and for the purpose of such special election he may combine, unite or divide precincts. Such special election shall be conducted and notice thereof given in the manner provided by law." (Emphasis supplied.)
In AGO 1968 No. 30 [[to Lincoln E. Shropshire, Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County on September 12, 1968]], copy enclosed, this office had occasion to devote a considerable amount of attention to the language of this statute. We interpretively summarized this language as follows, at page 6 of the opinion:
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
"From a reading of RCW 29.13.020 it is clear that in respect to special elections generally, the governing body of a municipality must submit a resolution to the auditor as the ex officio supervisor of elections at least forty-five days prior to the proposed election date. Upon receipt of such a resolution, the auditor 'if he deems an emergency to exist' may call an election at any time. If and when held, the election is to be conducted and notice thereof given in the manner provided by law.
"The purpose of this statute would appear to be to give the auditor, as supervisor of elections, at least forty-five days to prepare for the conduct of a special election. If the auditor finds an emergency to exist he may hold the election at any time within which he is able to perform the duties required of him in conducting an election."
If the election is to be held on a date not less than forty-five days prior to the auditor's receipt of the request therefor, it is not necessary (we then concluded) for the auditor to find the existence of an emergency. Conversely, if the auditor does find the existence of an emergency the statute permits him to set the election "at any time" ‑ including a time earlier than forty-five days after his receipt of the request. Accord, City of Tacoma v. Greco, Supreme Court Cause No. 41686 (September 3, 1970) in which the Washington court upheld certain comparable action of the Pierce county auditor in setting the date for a 1970 election on petitions for the recall of members of the Tacoma city council.
Therefore, assuming that the auditor has found the requisite emergency to exist in this case1/ we must [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] conclude that he is acting within the scope of his authority when indicating his intention to place the subject Tacoma bond proposition on the September 19, 1972 ballot ‑ notwithstanding the fact that he did not receive the formal request therefor from the city council until some time after the forty-fifth day prior to this election date.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/A probable basis for such a finding in the case here presented would be the fact that the state‑wide [[statewide]]primary election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, September 19, 1972, in all voting precincts of this state. Therefore, unless the Tacoma bond election is conducted on this date rather than a date forty-five or more days after receipt of the request, the auditor will be called upon to conduct the bond election separately from the primary, with obvious attendant increased costs to the taxpayers.