ELECTIONS ‑- VACANCIES ON TICKET ‑- FILLING BY STATE OR COUNTY COMMITTEE
Where a vacancy exists by failure of any candidate to file for an office, a state or county central committee, as the case may be, may fill the vacancy by majority vote of a quorum of the whole committee. The method of presentation to the committee may be any method provided by the committee's own rules.
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October 5, 1954
Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 331
Attention: Mr. Ken Gilbert
We acknowledge receipt of your letter of September 30, 1954, requesting advice regarding the procedure for filling vacancies on the general election ballot. You pose three specific questions as follows:
1. Must a caucus or meeting of at least a majority of the members of the state or county central committee (as the case may be) be held as a procedural step to the issuing of such certificate?
2. If your answer to question No. 1 is in the negative‑-is a meeting of the officers of the state or county central committee (as the case may be) sufficient?
3. If your answer to question No. 2 is in the affirmative, must the certificate contain the signatures of at least a majority of the officers concerned or are the signatures of the chairman and secretary sufficient?
Our answers are:
1. It is not necessary that the members of the committee or the officers of the committee actually convene in a meeting for the purpose of filling a vacancy on the ballot. However, it is necessary that a quorum of the committee be [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] consulted and act upon the selection of a candidate, and that a majority of the quorum concur in the selection. Any procedure recognized by the rules of the committee can be employed.
2. The signature of the chairman and secretary is sufficient to authenticate the certificate, provided the certificate shows on its face that a quorum of the committee has acted upon the selection.
RCW 29.18.150 is the code provision relating to this matter. However a comparison of the code provision with the two session law sections which it embodies, reveals that the problems dealt with in the two acts are not identical. Section 1, chapter 21, Laws of 1933, deals specifically with a vacancy on the ticket caused by lack of filings for the office. Since that is the specific situation involved here, we will refer to the session law language rather than the code provision.
Section 1, chapter 21, Laws of 1933, provides:
"* * * In case no candidate shall have filed for any office, thestate central committee of the party, if the vacancy shall be for a state office, and thecounty central committee, if it be for a county office, may select and certify a candidate to fill such vacancy: Provided, however, That the name of such candidate shall not be printed upon the ballot unless, within thirty (30) days after such primary election, such candidate shall pay to the officer to whom such candidate's fees are payable, as provided in section 5182 of Remington's Compiled Statutes, the fees required to be paid to become a candidate for such office, together with a sworn statement stating his place of residence and that he possesses the necessary legal qualifications for such office." (Emphasis supplied)
It should be noted that the statute refers to the state central committee and the county central committee, and not to particular officers of those bodies. RCW 29.42.020 defines the state committee of each major political party as one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county. RCW 29.42.030 defines the county central committee of each major political party as the precinct committeeman of that party from each voting precinct of the county.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
RCW 29.42.010 provides:
"Each political party organization shall have the power to:
"(1) Make its own rules and regulations;
"* * *
"(4) Fill vacancies on the ticket;" (Emphasis supplied)
These statutes make it clear that the authority to fill vacancies on the ticket is vested in therespective political party organizations pursuant to its own rules and regulations. No individual officer or member of such party organization could exercise this power without being expressly authorized to do so by the organization. Consequently, the first two questions may be answered as follows: It is not necessary to have either a caucus of a majority of members, or a meeting of the officer of either a state or county central committee. The ordinary rules of parliamentary procedure require, however, that any official action to be taken by an organization be submitted for approval to at least a quorum of that body. The action is approved or rejected by a simple majority of that quorum. It follows that a majority of the recognized quorum must be in accord as to the selection of the candidate. How this is done, whether by actual caucus, by mail ballot, by telephone poll, or by any other means, is governed only by the rules of the organization, promulgated pursuant to RCW 29.42.010.
In answer to your third question, the signatures of the chairman and secretary of the party organization are sufficient to authenticate the certificate, provided the certificate indicates that a quorum of the full organization was polled, and at least a majority of that quorum concurred in the selection of the candidate designated.
Very truly yours,
RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General