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AGO 1965 No. 14 - March 16, 1965
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- LEGISLATURE ‑- MEMBERS ‑- VACANCY ‑- APPOINTMENT OF PERSON FROM SAME POLITICAL PARTY AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT.

In the event of a vacancy in either house of the Washington state legislature prior to the date of commencement of new legislative terms of office under chapter 6, Laws of 1965, the person appointed to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term must be from the same political party as the legislator whose office was vacated and he must reside somewhere within the geographical area which comprised the legislative district from which his predecessor was elected or appointed.

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                                                                  March 16, 1965

Honorable Daniel J. Evans
Governor of the State of Washington
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 14

Dear Sir:

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

            In the event of occurrence of a vacancy in either house of the Washington state legislature during the period between the convening of the legislature on January 11, 1965, and the date of commencement of new legislative terms of office under chapter 6, Laws of 1965, how is such vacancy to be filled?

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

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The manner of filling vacancies in the state legislature is provided for by Article II, § 15 (Amendment 32) of the Washington State Constitution, as follows:

            "Such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature or in any partisan county elective office shall be filled by appointment by the board of county commissioners of the county in which the vacancy occurs:  Provided, That the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district and the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated, and shall be one of three persons who shall be nominated by the county central committee of that party, and the person so appointed shall hold office until his successor is elected at the next general election, and shall have qualified:  Provided, That in case of a vacancy occurring in the office of joint senator, or joint representative, the vacancy shall be filled from a list of three nominees selected by the state central committee, by appointment by the joint action of the boards of county commissioners of the counties composing the joint senatorial or joint representative district, the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated, and in case a majority of said county commissioners do not agree upon the appointment within sixty days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within thirty days thereafter, and from the list of nominees provided for herein, appoint a person who shall be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated."

            In so far as legislative vacancies are concerned, it is to be seen that this constitutional provision contains, basically, two requirements:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            (1) That the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated; and

            (2) That the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district as the legislator whose office has been vacated.

            The meaning of the first of these requirements is, presumably, quite clear.  If the legislator whose office has been vacated was a member of the Republican party, his replacement must also be a Republican.  If he was a member of the Democratic party, his replacement must be a Democrat.

            As for the second requirement ‑ that the replacement must come from the same legislative district as did the legislator whose office has been vacated ‑ it is our opinion that this means the person appointed to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term must reside somewhere within the geographical area which comprised the legislative district from which his predecessor was elected or appointed.  We believe this to be true without regard to the fact that between the beginning and end of the term of office of the legislator whose office has been vacated, a new redistricting plan is adopted; i.e., in, the instant case, chapter 6, Laws of 1965.1/

             The point is simply that though the new redistricting plan may be immediately effective,2/ it does not become operative until the commencement of new terms of office to be filled by elections as provided therein.3/   Consequently in the meantime any vacancy occurring in either house of the legislature is a vacancy as to the now existing term of office‑-to be filled  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] for the remainder of the unexpired term in the manner aforesaid.


            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Notably, this legislation does not purport to prematurely terminate any existing terms of office.  Had it done so, of course, a somewhat different question would be presented and our answer would be governed thereby.

2/See, § 59, chapter 6, Laws of 1965.

3/See, §§ 52, 54, 55 and 57, chapter 6, Laws of 1965.

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