Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1963 No. 62 - October 09, 1963
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


ELECTIONS ‑- POLITICAL PARTY OFFICERS ‑- PRECINCT COMMITTEEMEN ‑- RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS ‑- ELECTION OF STATE COMMITTEEMAN.

(1) No person who is not a precinct committeeman or precinct committeewoman (a member of the county central committee) may vote at an election for officers of the county central committee.

(2) A person whose permanent residence is in one precinct within a county cannot be appointed as a precinct committeeman for another precinct.

(3) It is not necessary that the state committeeman or state committeewoman be members of the county central committee unless the rules and regulations adopted by the political party requires the same.

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

                                                                 October 9, 1963

Honorable Joe D. Haussler
State Representative, 1st District
Box 949
Omak, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 62

Dear Sir:

            This is written in reply to your letter, previously acknowledged, in which you requested an opinion of this office on questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) May any person other than a precinct committeeman (or woman) vote at an election for the chairman and other officers of a county central committee of a political party?

            (2) May a person whose permanent residence is in one precinct within a county be appointed as a precinct committeeman for another precinct within that county?

            (3) May a person other than a county precinct committeeman be elected as a state committeeman of a political party?

            We answer questions (1) and (2) in the negative, and question (3) in the affirmative, for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            RCW 29.42.030 (§ 4, chapter 130, Laws of 1961), provides:

            "The county central committee of each major political party shall consist of the precinct committeemen of the party from the several voting precincts of the county.  This committee shall meet for the purpose of organization at the county court house at two o'clock p.m. on the second Saturday in December after each state general election unless some other time and place are designated by a sufficient notice to all the newly elected committeemen by the authorized officers of the retiring committee.  For the purpose of this paragraph, a notice mailed at least seventy-two hours prior to the date of the meeting shall constitute sufficient notice.

            "At its organization meeting, the county central committee shall elect a chairman and vice chairman who must be of opposite sexes; it shall also elect a state committeeman and a state committeewoman."

            Thus, the chairman and vice‑chairman of a county central committee (as well as the state committeeman and state committeewoman) are to be elected by the county committee which "shall consist of the precinct committeemen of the party from the several voting precincts of the county."  Accordingly, it follows that no person who is not a precinct committeeman (or woman)‑-i.e., a member of the county central committee, may vote at an election for those officers of the county central committee.

            Question (2):

            RCW 29.42.040 (§ 5, chapter 130, Laws of 1961), provides:

            "Any member of a major political party who is a registered voter in the precinct may upon payment of a fee of one dollar file his declaration of candidacy with the county auditor for the office of precinct committeeman of his party  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] in that precinct.  When elected he shall serve so long as he remains an eligible voter in that precinct and until his successor has been elected at the next ensuing state general election."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Vacancies in the office of precinct committeeman occurring by reason of death, resignation, or disqualification of the incumbent are to be filled as provided in RCW 29.42.050 (§ 6, chapter 130, Laws of 1961), which reads in pertinent part:

            ". . . Should any vacancy occur in this office by reason of death, resignation or disqualification of the incumbent, or because of failure to elect, the respective county chairman of the county central committee shall be empowered to fill such vacancy by appointment:  Provided, That the person so appointed shall have the same qualifications as candidates when filing for election to such office for such precinctProvided further, That when a vacancy in the office of precinct committeeman exists because of failure to elect at a state general election, such vacancy shall not be filled until after the organization meeting of the county central committee and the new county chairman selected as provided by RCW 29.42.030."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, both the candidate for election as precinct committeeman and the person appointed to fill a vacancy in office resulting from death, resignation or disqualification of the incumbent must have the same qualification; namely,they must be registered voters of the precinct for which they are to be elected or appointed.

            RCW 29.01.140 provides that residence for the purpose of registering and voting means a person's permanent address where he physically resides and maintains his abode.  A person cannot be a registered voter in a given precinct unless that precinct is his place of permanent residence.

            Therefore, in answer to your second question, a person whose permanent residence is in one precinct within a county cannot be a registered voter of another precinct and, accordingly, cannot be appointed as a precinct committeeman from such "other" precinct.1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Question (3):

            With regard to the composition of the state committee of a major political party, RCW 29.42.020 (§ 3, chapter 130, Laws of 1961), provides:

            "The state committee of each major political party shall consist of one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county elected by the county committee at its organization meeting.  It shall have a chairman and vice chairman who must be of opposite sexes."

            This section, in so far as is material, is identical to its predecessor, § 1, chapter 178, Laws of 1943, which provided:

            "The state committee shall consist of one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county, elected by the county committee . . ."

            In an opinion dated December 26, 1946, to the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney William J. Gaffney [[1947-48 OAG 2a]], copy enclosed, this office considered this 1943 statute and advised as follows:

            "There is no specific provision in the statute requiring that the state committeeman and committeewoman from each county be precinct committeemen or precinct committeewomen or members of the county central committee.  Nor is there any specific provision which requires that the officers of the state or county central committee be precinct committeemen or committeewomen.  It is recognized that ordinarily the officers of an organization or the representatives thereof are members of the organization; however, several cogent reasons compel the opinion that the legislative intent is that the officers of the county committee and the representatives thereof to the state central committee need not be precinct committeemen."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            "The statute in question [cf. RCW 29.42.010] provides in part:

            "'* * * Each political party organization  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] shall have the power to make its own rules and regulations, call conventions, elect delegates to conventions, state and national, fill vacancies on the ticket, provide for the nomination of presidential electors, and perform all other functions inherent to such organization, the same as though this act had not been passed: * * *'

            "Manifestly the provision leaves plenary power in the organizations to provide for their own government, e.g., to determine that an individual who is not a precinct committeeman may be better equipped to preside as chairman or vice‑chairman of their organization, or to represent the county organization on the central committee, and to so provide.  We have been informed that the major political parties have acted in that manner in the past and that such is the present practice.  Indicative that this was the legislative intent, is the acquiescence by subsequent legislatures in this practice of the major political parties by the absence of legislation to the contrary.  It is a well recognized rule of construction that when ambiguity exists in a statute as in the instant case, acquiescence by the legislature in a particular conception evidenced by lack of subsequent legislation to the contrary, may be construed to imply a tacit consent to that construction.  CrawfordStatutory Construction, sec. 218.

            "Predicating our opinion on these grounds you are advised that it is not necessary that state committeemen and state committeewomen be members of the county central committee."

            We adhere to the reasoning and conclusion thus expressed.  Therefore, we answer your third question in the affirmative.

            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

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, however, State v. Britton, 27 Wn.2d 336, 178 P.2d 341 (1947), and cases cited therein denying the right to challenge, on jurisdictional grounds, the past acts of a de facto officer.

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo