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AGO 1960 No. 111 - March 31, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS - PORT - COMMISSIONERS - ORDER IN WHICH NAMES OF CANDIDATES APPEAR ON BALLOT.

Names of candidates for the office of port commissioner in Class AA and Class A counties are to be arranged in the order in which their declarations for candidacy are filed.

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                                                                  March 31, 1960

Honorable Victor A. Meyers
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                           Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 111

Dear Sir:

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

            Are the names of candidates for the office of port commissioner in Class AA and A counties to be arranged in the order in which their declarations of candidacy were filed?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 53.12.055 provides:

            "In the event that more than two candidates are filed for the office of port district commissioner in any port commissioner district or for the office of port district commissioner at large after the last day for withdrawal of candidacy, in port districts in class AA and class A counties, the county auditor shall conduct a port district primary at the same time at which he conducts the county primaries.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "In the event that no more than two candidates are filed for the office of port district commissioner in any port commissioner district or for the office of port district commissioner at large after the last day for withdrawal of candidacy, in port districts in class AA and class A counties, the county auditor shall not conduct a primary and shall notify the candidates in such districts that there will be no primary, and shall cause their names to be printed in alphabetical sequence on the ballot for the general elections only.

            "In the event that a primary is conducted for the office of port district commissioner, the name of the person who receives the greatest number of votes and of the person who receives the next greatest number of votes for each position, shall appear in that order on the port district general election ballot under the designation for each respective office.  In the event there are two or more offices to be filled for the same position, then names of candidates receiving the highest number of votes equal in number to twice the offices to be filled shall appear on the port district general election ballot so that the voter shall have a choice of two candidates for each position.  The sequence of names of candidates printed on the district general election ballot shall be in relation to the number of votes of each candidate received at the primary.  Names of candidates printed upon the district primary and general election ballot need not be rotated."  (Emphasis supplied)

            As you have noted, the foregoing statute is silent as to the sequence in which such candidates' names are to appear on the primary election ballot.  Likewise, we agree that no other port district election statute expressly states what sequence is to be followed.

            You have inquired as to whether you are correct in assuming that such is governed by the general election law, RCW 29.30.040, which provides:

            "The names of candidates for each office upon primary ballots under the heading designating each official position upon the ballots to be used in voting,shall be first arranged in the order in which their declarations of candidacy were filed.   [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] In printing each set of ballots for the several counties, the positions of the names of candidates shall be changed in each office division as many times as there are candidates in the office division in which there are the most names.  As nearly as possible an equal number of ballots shall be printed after each change.  In making the changes of position, the printer shall take the line of type at the head of each office division and place it at the bottom of the division and shove up the column so that the name that before was second, shall be first, after the change.  After the ballots are printed they shall be kept in separate piles, one pile for each change of position, and shall then be gathered by taking one from each pile; the intention being that every other ballot at the polls shall have the names in a different position."  (Emphasis supplied)

            While there is no explicit declaration in the port district law that the primary ballot name sequence shall be governed by the general election law, we think such is clearly implied.  No doubt you are aware of the basic rule that the primary purpose of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent.  Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390, 191 P. (2d) 858 (1948).  There is no provision in the port district law requiring rotation of candidates' names; unless the legislature intended that RCW 29.30.040 be applicable, there would have been no necessity of the provision in RCW 53.12.055 that names of candidates need not be rotated.  The provisions of RCW 53.12.060, 53.12.180 and 53.12.240 providing that certain other port district election processes be governed by general election law also manifest legislative intent that, except as otherwise provided, port district elections are subject to general law.

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

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP R. MEADE
Assistant Attorney General

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