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AGO 1958 No. 207 - June 25, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- AUTHORITY OF CITY CLERK TO APPOINT AND REMOVE DEPUTY REGISTRAR.

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- CITY CLERK ‑- AUTHORITY TO APPOINT ON-DUTY FIREMAN AS DEPUTY REGISTRAR.  "F" MISC. ‑- FIREMEN ‑- APPOINTMENT AS DEPUTY REGISTRAR WHILE ACTING AS ON-DUTY FIREMAN.

(1) City clerk of first class city can designate fire station in the legislative district within the city as the fixed place for registering voters.  (2) City clerk is authorized to appoint an on-duty fireman as deputy registrar and pay him the minimum fee of 20 cents for each elector registered.  (3) A deputy registrar may register electors by going from door to door without specific authorization of the city clerk, but the city clerk is legally authorized to remove a deputy registrar at his discretion.

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                                                                   June 25, 1958

Honorable J. Bruce Burns
State Representative, 27th District
1218 South Ridgewood Avenue
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                       Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 207

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion from this office on several questions which we set out as follows:

            (1) "Can the City Clerk of a first class City designate fire stations in the Legislative districts that lie within the City as the fixed place for registering voters?

            (2) "Can the City Clerk appoint an on-duty fireman as a deputy registrar?

            (3) "Is an on-duty fireman entitled to the minimum fee of 20 cents per each elector registered?

            (4) "May a deputy registrar, without the specific consent of the City Clerk register electors by going door to door?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (5) "Can the City Clerk remove a deputy registrar because said deputy registrar registered electors by going door to door?"

            We answer all questions in the affirmative, as qualified in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) RCW 29.07.100 deals with the time and places for registration of voters in cities and towns.  That section contains the following language:

            "Registration officers in incorporated cities and towns shall keep their respective offices open for registration of voters during the days and hours when the same are open for the transaction of public business:  Provided, That in cities of the first class, the registrar of voters shall establish on a permanent basis at least one registration office in each legislative district that lies wholly or partially within the city limits by appointing persons as deputy registrars who may register any eligible elector of such city.

            "Each such deputy registrar shall hold office at the pleasure of the registrar of voters and shall maintain a fixed place, conveniently located, for the registration of voters but nothing in this section shall preclude door-to-door registration including registration from a portable office as in a trailer."

            Though it is required that deputy registrars shall maintain a fixed place for registration, the selection of such fixed place is left open.  We believe it obvious that the legislature intended the selection to rest with the discretion of the city clerk, who is the designated registrar in all city precincts.  There is nothing in our state law which would prohibit the use of a city fire station for registration purposes, and we must therefore conclude that such use is proper, provided it does not conflict with any charter provisions or ordinances of the city involved.

            (2) There are no limiting qualifications as to the persons who may be appointed as deputy registrars.  We must conclude, therefore, that the legislature has left it to the discretion of the registration officer, and he may appoint anyone otherwise authorized.

            There is no state law which would prevent the appointment of an on-duty fireman  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] as deputy registrar; and unless such appointment contravenes local legislation, it does not appear to be improper.

            (3) RCW 29.07.040 governs the fees and compensation of registration officers, and the second paragraph of this statute reads as follows:

            "The compensation of registrars of city precincts shall be provided by the governing body thereof:  Provided, That each deputy registrar shall be entitled to receive a fee of not less than twenty cents for each elector registered."

            The first paragraph of the same section contains a proviso prohibiting the receipt of such by a salaried county employee, but nowhere is there any similar inhibition applicable to city employees, and accordingly it must be concluded that the legislature did not intend that such exception apply to cities.  Unless such practice is violative of local charter provisions or ordinances, there is no reason why a fireman who is appointed a deputy registrar cannot receive the statutory fee.

            (4) Generally, there is nothing improper in door-to-door registration.  As a matter of policy, the legislature has expressed a favorable view of this practice by language appearing in RCW 29.07.100 as follows:

            ". . . nothing in this section shall preclude door-to-door registration including registration from a portable office as in a trailer."

            This same language appears in RCW 29.07.105, and by RCW 29.07.110 express power is conferred upon the county auditor to authorize deputy registrars to conduct door-to-door registration.

            In view of this, it is our opinion that lack of specific consent by the registrar to make door-to-door registrations would in no way affect the validity of the registrations secured in this manner, since the legislature has impliedly authorized the use of this method.

            (5) RCW 29.07.100,supra, applying to deputy registrars in cities and towns, reads in part:

            "Each such deputy registrar shall hold office at the pleasure of the registrar . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            The language "at the pleasure" is indicative of a legislative intent that the registrar have wide discretion as to removal of such deputies.  Marrone v. City Manager of Worcester, 329 Mass. 378, 108 N.E. (2d) 533.

            This does not necessarily mean that removal may be arbitrary and capricious, but that an extremely wide discretion is conferred in the selection and removal of such employees.  People ex rel. Curtis v. Hogeboom, 173 N.Y.S. 417, 185 App. Div. 777;MacDonald v. De Waele, 248 N.W. 605, 263 Mich. 233.

            We feel that it is implicit in the statutes cited above that the city clerk is the supervisory authority with regard to the conduct of city registrations within the limitations imposed by the legislature and that any justification short of mere whim or caprice would be sufficient basis for removal of a deputy registrar.

            We hope the foregoing will prove helpful.

Yours very truly,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

GERALD F. COLLIER
Assistant Attorney General

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