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AGO 1964 No. 96 - April 02, 1964
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- ELECTION ‑- APPOINTMENT OF ELECTION OFFICIALS.

All elections which a school district is authorized by law to hold, except recall elections in class A and AA counties are to be conducted by election officials appointed by the county auditor pursuant to RCW 29.45.010 and RCW 29.45.030.

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                                                                    April 2, 1964

Honorable C. J. Rabideau
Prosecuting Attorney
Franklin County
P.O. Box 951
Pasco, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 96

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Which statutes govern the selection of election officials forgeneral school district elections?

            (2) Which statutes govern the selection of election officials forspecial school district elections?

            We answer your questions as explained in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) It is our conclusion that election officials for general school district elections in all classes of counties are to be selected pursuant to RCW 29.45.010 and RCW 29.45.030.

            RCW 29.45.010 is not to be found word for word in any volume of the Washington session laws.  However, our research indicates that said section reflects an accurate composite of those session law sources cited in the history note to the RCW section.  For the sake of brevity we will therefore treat RCW 29.45.010 as the correct statement of the law.  Said section provides in part as follows:

            "At least ten days prior to the primary or election day, the county auditor, in the case of primaries and elections under the consolidated election laws, . . . shall appoint one inspector and two judges of election for each  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] precinct from among the names contained on the lists therefor furnished by the chairman of the county central committee of the political parties entitled to representation thereon."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 29.45.020 provides for appointment of clerks; RCW 29.45.030 provides the procedure by which the above mentioned lists are furnished to the appointing officer; and RCW 29.45.040 provides procedure for filling vacancies.

            Thus, the question is, are all school district general elections to be held under the "consolidated election" laws.

            The "consolidated election" laws are RCW 29.13.010 through 29.13.030.  RCW 29.13.020 and 29.13.030 were amended by §§ 1 and 5 of chapter 200, Laws of 1963.  Section 1 provides in part:

            "All . . .district elections, except as hereinafter provided,whether general or special, and whether for the election of municipal or district officers or for the submission to the voters of any city, town or district of any question for their adoption and approval, or rejection, shall be held inClass AA or Class A counties on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in the odd-numbered years: . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Section 5 provides in part:

            "Allgeneral school district elections, in class 1 through class 9 counties, shall be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in the odd-numbered years: . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Since general school district elections in all counties are classified as part of the consolidated election laws, it is obvious that the provisions of RCW 29.45.010,supra, apply, which state that it is a duty of the county auditor in the case of elections under the consolidated election laws to appoint one inspector and two judges of election for each precinct.

            This result is further supported by pointing out that prior to the passage of chapter 200, Laws of 1963, which amended many sections  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] of the election laws, in elections held under RCW 29.13.030 (school elections in class 1 through 9 counties), the school district clerk was to perform the duties prescribed for the county auditor; however, § 6 of chapter 200, Laws of 1963, deleted this provision and provided that elections under RCW 29.13.030 are now to be conducted by the county auditor.

            Finally, inasmuch as general school district elections will now be held in conjunction with general elections on a common date, it would be illogical to assume that more than one method of appointing election officials was intended by the legislature.  It is a familiar rule of statutory construction that the general purpose or spirit of a legislative act must always be held in view and absurd consequences avoided as far as possible.  See,State ex rel. Thorp v. Devin, 26 Wn.2d 333, 345, 173 P.2d 994 (1946).

            We conclude, therefore, that for general school district elections in all classes of counties, it is the duty of the county auditor to appoint election officers pursuant to RCW 29.45.010 and RCW 29.45.030.

            (2) In answer to your second question as to which statutes govern the selection of election officials for special school district elections, § 1, chapter 200, Laws of 1963, provides, in relation to class A and class AA counties, in part as follows:

            "All . . . district elections, except as hereinafter provided,whether general or special, and whether for the election of . . . district officers orfor the submission to the voters of any. . .district of any question for their adoption and approval, or rejection, shall be held . . . on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in the odd-numbered years: . . .

            ". . .

            "The county auditor, as ex officio supervisor of elections, upon request in the form of a resolution of the governing body of a . . . 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 . . . district and for the purpose of such special election he may combine, unite or divide precincts.  Such special election shall be  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] conducted and notice thereof given in the manner provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In relation to counties of classes 1 through 9, § 5, chapter 200, Laws of 1963, provides in part as follows:

            "Allgeneral school district elections, in class 1 through class 9 counties, shall be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November . . .

            ". . .

            "The county auditor, as ex officio supervisor of elections, upon request in the form of a resolution of the governing body of a . . . 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 . . . district and for the purpose of such special election he may combine, unite or divide precincts.  Suchspecial election shall be conducted and notices thereof given in the manner provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            At this point it must be noted that although these two sections are slightly different, although with no apparent difference in what they accomplish, they both clearly cover all possible elections a school district, in any class county, can hold, i.e., general or special.  See,Robb v. Tacoma, 175 Wash. 580, 28 P.2d 327 (1933).

            However, in § 1 of chapter 200, an exception which relates to school districts is carved out.  Section 1 provides in part:

            "This section shall not apply to:

            "(1) Elections for the recall of . . . district officers," (In class A and AA counties.)

            Section 5, chapter 200, does not contain a similar provision for recall elections in class 1 through 9 counties.  Rather this section provides in part:

            ". . . That this section shall not be  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] construed as fixing the time for holding the elections for the recall of any . . . district officers . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The apparent reason for this difference does not appear to have been a conscious recognition on the part of the legislature of a need for a difference but rather a draftsman's oversight brought about as a result of the frequent amendment to these laws since 1921, and more specifically the 1955 amendment, chapter 55, Laws of 1955.  Chapter 55, Laws of 1955, amended RCW 29.13.030 (all counties other than A and AA) by changing the general coverage of the statute from all elections general or special to only general elections, but left the language quoted above which says the section does not fix the date for certain special elections.  This language has been carried in this section ever since then, even though it obviously is surplusage.  It is surplusage for the simple reason that the section does not in any way fix the time for special elections under any circumstances.

            Thus we have this result‑-all possible elections a school district may hold, except recall elections in class A and AA counties, are to be held under §§ 1 and 5 of chapter 200, Laws of 1963, or in other words under RCW 29.13.020 and RCW 29.13.030.

            Section 6, chapter 200, Laws of 1963, provides that all elections held under RCW 29.13.020 or RCW 29.13.030 ". . . shall be conducted by the county auditor. . ."

            Therefore it is our conclusion that for all possible school district elections in all classes of counties, except for recall elections in class A and AA counties, it is the duty of the county auditor to appoint election officers pursuant to RCW 29.45.010 and RCW 29.45.030.

            At this point it appears the statement of our court in State ex rel. Wenatchee Etc. Dist. v. Banker, 179 Wash. 343, 37 P.2d 1115 (1934), is particularly apropos.  The court noted that the election laws were "a very confusing and conflicting series of statutes."  This was in 1934, and the situation has not changed in any material respect since that time.  In this regard it must be noted that there are myriad related and relevant statutes which we have for the sake  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] of brevity purposely not included in our analysis because we are convinced they are no longer of force and effect since the enactment of chapter 200, Laws of 1963, even though chapter 200 did not refer to them in any manner.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

BRUCE W. COHOE
Assistant Attorney General

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