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AGO 1971 No. 18 - June 28, 1971
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS ‑- VOTER REGISTRATION RECORDS ‑- APPORTIONMENT OF MAINTENANCE EXPENSES

(1) Section 4, chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., requires each incorporated city or town located in a particular county to pay a proportionate share of the county's expenses of maintenance of voter registration records.

(2) Maintenance expenses of such voter registration records may include equipment (such as filing cabinets, etc.) as well as clerical expenses and the costs of supplies.

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

                                                                   June 28, 1971

Honorable A. Ludlow Kramer
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1971 No. 18

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office as to the proper construction to be given to a provision contained in § 4 of chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess.  We paraphrase your questions as follows:

            (1) Does § 4, chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., require each incorporated city or town located in a particular county to pay a proportionate share of the county's expenses of maintenance of voter registration records?

            (2) If your answer to question (1) is in the affirmative, may such maintenance expenses include equipment (such as filing cabinets, etc.) as well as clerical expenses and the costs of supplies?

            We answer both of these questions in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., which will become effective on August 9, 1971, greatly alters the present voter registration procedures in this state.  One of the main thrusts of this legislation is to consolidate the functions of voter registration in the hands of the various county auditors instead of having these functions shared by cities, towns and counties as in the past ‑ pursuant to the preexisting provisions of RCW 29.07.010 ‑ 29.07.020.

            Specifically, this consolidation is to be brought about under the provisions of § 4 of the act.  This section amends RCW 29.07.010 by deleting the present provisions thereof (making the auditor the registrar of voters for rural precincts only) and by adding, in lieu thereof, the following:

            "In all counties the county auditor shall be the chief registrar of voters for every precinct within the county.  He shall appoint a deputy registrar for each precinct or for any number of precincts and shall appoint city or town clerks as deputy registrars to assist in registering voters residing in cities, towns, and rural precincts within the county.

            "A deputy registrar shall be a registered voter and, except for city and town clerks, shall hold office at the pleasure of the county auditor.

            "The county auditor shall be the custodian of the official registration records of each precinct within that county.  The expenses of registration shall be apportioned between the county and cities or towns therein in the same manner as provided in RCW 29.07.030."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            From the underlined portion of this statute, it will be noted that the legislative approach was to adopt the procedures set forth in another statute, RCW 29.07.030, as establishing the method to be followed in apportioning the expenses of registration between "the county and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] cities or towns therein."  RCW 29.07.030 provides as follows:

            "The expense of registration in all rural precincts shall be paid by the county; in all precincts lying wholly within a city or town by the city or town.  In precincts lying partly within and partly outside of a city or town, the expense of registration shall be apportioned between the county and city or town according to the number of voters registered in the precinct living within the city or town and the number living outside of it."

            The phrase "The expense of registration" as used in this statute would seem to include all necessary expenses connected with registration, including the costs of maintenance of the records of registration.  Thus, in the absence of any language to the contrary, the statute would seem to include the costs of equipment and supplies necessary for the maintenance of registration records, as well as the costs of such clerical and secretarial help as is necessary for voter registration and the maintenance of the records.

            In construing legislation it is necessary to consider an act as a whole and to discern the relationship of one part to another.  DeGrief v. City of Seattle, 50 Wn.2d 1, 297 P.2d 940 (1956); City of Tacoma v. Cavanaugh, 45 Wn.2d 500, 275 P.2d 933 (1954).  From this standpoint, it will be noted that a major portion of chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., deals with such matters as standardized forms and procedures for filing, maintaining, and handling registration records.1/   In view of this, it would seem somewhat absurd to conclude that in its enactment of § 4,supra, the legislature did not have in mind all of the necessary expenses connected with registering, and maintaining registration records for, voters.

            [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Next, we should also pay heed to the rule that a legislature is presumed to enact legislation with full knowledge of preexisting statutory provisions governing the same subject.  Application of Levy, 23 Wn.2d 607, 161 P.2d 651 (1945); and Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn.2d 390, 191 P.2d 858 (1948).  In this instance, it should thus be deemed to have been aware of various other provisions in Title 29 RCW, such as RCW 29.04.020 and RCW 29.13.045, whereby the costs of elections are apportioned between jurisdictions on the basis of the expenses incurred in each precinct or portion of a precinct within the respective governmental units.  Against this background, we would regard § 4, chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess.,supra, as simply embodying one further manifestation of this conceptual approach ‑ coupled with the reform of consolidating all voter registration functions within a particular county in the hands of a single official, the county auditor.

            Therefore, in conclusion, it is our best judgment that § 4, chapter 202, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., does require each incorporated city or town located in a particular county to pay a proportionate share of the county's expenses of maintenance of voter registration records; and, moreover, that such expenses may include equipment (such as filing cabinets, etc.) as well as clerical expenses and the costs of supplies.  Beyond this, we would further point out for purposes of clarification that the method by which a particular city's proportionate share of these expenses is to be calculated is on the basis of individual precinct expenses.  RCW 29.07.030,supra.  In other words, each city or town will be responsible for all registration expenses related to registration in precincts lying wholly within the city or town.  In addition, it will also be responsible, in the case of precincts lying partially within and partially outside of the city limits, for a proportionate share of registration expenses ". . . according to the number of voters registered in the precinct living within the city or town and the number living outside of it."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


WAYNE L. WILLIAMS
Assistant Attorney General


                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, particularly, the following sections:  2, 9, 10, 11, 15-23, 26-33, 35, 36 and 40.

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