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AGO 1962 No. 170 - September 27, 1962
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- ANNEXATION ‑- PART OF A FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, SEWER DISTRICT, AND WATER DISTRICT ‑- PERSONS QUALIFIED TO VOTE IN DISTRICT ELECTIONS.

The annexation by a city or town of only a part of a fire protection district, sewer district or water district has the following effect upon the qualifications of the voters residing within the area annexed to vote in district elections:  (1) Fire protection district‑- the area annexed ceases to be a part of the district and residents of of the area annexed are no longer qualified to vote in district elections; (2) sewer districts‑-the area annexed ceases to be a part of the district unless the legislative authority of the city or town consents to continued inclusion of the annexed area as a part of the district and residents of the area annexed are no longer qualified to vote at district elections unless the required consent has been given; (3) water districts‑-the area annexed remains a part of the district and the residents of the area annexed remain qualified to vote in district elections.

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                                                              September 27, 1962

Honorable E. Lloyd Meeds
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish County
Everett, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 170

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Upon annexation by a city or town of only part of a fire protection district, sewer district, or water district, may the duly qualified residents of the areas annexed continue to vote in district elections?

            We answer your question in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            We shall assume for the purpose of discussion that no problem exists regarding the general voting qualifications of the persons whose particular voting rights are here under consideration.  That is to say, we shall assume that the persons of whom we speak are able to meet the requirements of Article VI, § 1 (Amendment 5) of the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] Washington State Constitution, pertaining to qualifications of electors.  This section provides, in so far as it is material, as follows:

            "All persons of the age of twenty-one years or over, possessing the following qualifications, shall be entitled to vote at all elections:  They shall be citizens of the United States; they shall have lived in the state one year, and in the county ninety days, and in the city, town, ward or precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote; . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Of course, from this constitutional provision it follows that in the case of a fire protection district, water district, or sewer district election, the persons seeking to vote at such election must have lived in the said fire protection district, water district, or sewer district for at least thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote.

            Accordingly, the question to be here considered is whether the persons residing within that portion of a fire protection district, water district, or sewer district which is annexed to a city or town, remain residents of the fire protection district, water district, or sewer district for purposes of participating in the elections thereof.

            With regard to a fire protection district, this point is clearly answered by § 6, chapter 237, Laws of 1959 (see RCW 52.22.030), providing:

            "Effective January 1, 1960, every city or town, or portion thereof, which is situated within the boundaries of a fire protection district shall become automatically removed from such fire protection district, and no fire protection district shall thereafter include any city or town, or portion thereof, within its boundaries."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, clearly, annexation by a city or town of only part of a fire protection district nevertheless has the effect of removing the area annexed from the corporate boundaries of the fire protection district.

            However, in the case of water districts and sewer districts we find no such specific statutory provision.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In the case of sewer districts, we do find RCW 56.04.020, providing as follows:

            "Sewer districts for the acquirement, construction, maintenance, operation, development, reorganization, and regulation of a system of sewers, including treatment and disposal plants and all necessary appurtenances and providing for additions and betterments thereto, are hereby authorized to be established or reorganized in the various counties of this state.  Such districts may include within their boundaries portions or all of one or more incorporated cities or towns or other political subdivision:  Provided, however, No portion or all of any incorporated city or town may be included without the consent by resolution of the city or town legislative authority:. . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 57.04.020, relating to water districts, merely provides in so far as is pertinent, that:

            ". . . Such districts may include within their boundaries one or more incorporated cities and towns."

            In other words (unlike fire protection districts) sewer districts (with the consent of the governing body of the city or town) and water districts may include within their corporate limits areas which are also contained within the corporate limits of cities or towns.

            The general law relating to the annexation, by cities and towns, of unincorporated areas, is codified in chapter 35.13 RCW.  This chapter codifies all of chapter 282, Laws of 1961, and as well certain earlier laws which were not repealed by the 1961 act.  We note that §§ 21, 22, and 23, chapter 282, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 35.13.220, 35.13.243 and 35.13.246) contain detailed directions regarding the effect of annexation by a city or town of all or part of the area of a fire protection district, water district, or sewer district.  However, these statutory provisions relate only to such matters as the assumption of ownership of assets of the annexed district, liability for the obligations of the annexed district, and liability of real property contained in the annexed district for payment of outstanding obligations existing at the time of annexation.  For a complete presentation and discussion of these statutes, see AGO 61-62 No. 113, dated April 13, 1962, to State Senator F. Stuart Foster, copy of which is herein enclosed.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            These statutory provisions last cited do not purport to cover the effect, if any, of annexation of part of the area contained in a water district or sewer districtupon the corporate boundaries of the said district.

            In fact, the only statutory provisions we find providing for withdrawal of territory from the corporate limits of a sewer district or water district are RCW 56.28.010 and RCW 57.28.010et seq.  Withdrawal, under these statutes, is effectuated only by petition of residents or owners of realty located within the area to be withdrawn.

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that:

            (1) In the case of annexation by a city or town of part of a sewer district, the area annexed ceases to be included within the corporate limits of the sewer district unless the legislative authority of the city or town, by resolution, consents to continued inclusion of the newly annexed area within the corporate limits of the sewer district.  RCW 56.04.020,supra.

            (2) In the case of annexation by a city or town of part of a water district, the area annexed remains a part of the water district (pursuant to RCW 57.04.020,supra, and because of the absence of any statutory provision to the contrary).

            From the above and previously stated conclusions, it follows that upon annexation by a city or town of part only of a fire protection district, sewer district, or water district:

            (1) In the case of a fire protection district, the area annexed ceases to be a part of the district and, hence, residents of the area annexed are no longer qualified to vote in district elections;

            (2) In the case of a sewer district, the area annexed ceases to be a part of the district unless the legislative authority of the city or town consents to continued inclusion of the annexed area as a part of the district and, hence, residents of the area annexed are no longer qualified to vote in district elections unless consent as above stated has been given;

            (3) In the case of a water district, the area annexed remains a part of the district, and, hence, residents of the area annexed remain qualified to vote in district elections.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

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

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Assistant Attorney General

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