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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1960 No. 167 - Dec 20 1960
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Intoxicating liquor may not be sold in a township area on the day of the township annual meeting.

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                                                               December 20, 1960

Honorable John J. Lally
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington                                                                                      Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 167

Dear Sir:

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

            Under RCW 66.44.260 relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors on election days, may such liquor be lawfully sold on the day of an annual town meeting held and conducted under the provisions of RCW 45.12.070 through 45.12.080?

            We answer your question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.


            RCW 66.44.260, codifying § 18, chapter 69, Laws of 1891 reads as follows:

            "Any person who barters, sells, gives away, or in any manner disposes of any intoxicating liquors on the day of any general or special election of state, county,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] or municipal offices within the state, county, municipal corporation, or district in which the election is held, and before the polls have closed, shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than two hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not less than ten nor more than thirty days, or both."

            With regard to those areas of the state wherein a township organization or form of government has been adopted, RCW 45.12.070 requires that:

            "The citizens of the several towns of this state qualified to vote at town meetings shall annually assemble and hold town meetings in the several towns on the second Tuesday in January, at such place in each town as the electors thereof, at their annual town meetings from time to time appoint, . . ."

            RCW 45.12.080 provides that:

            "There shall be elected at the annual town meeting in each town, one supervisor and there shall be elected at the annual town meeting in the odd-numbered years one town clerk, one treasurer, one assessor, one justice of the peace, and one constable to hold office for the term of two years and until their successors are elected and qualified: . . ."

            Finally, RCW 45.12.140 45.12.240 set forth in considerable detail the mode of organization of the annual town meeting and the method or procedure whereby the election of town officers, as required by RCW 45.12.080, above quoted, is to be conducted.  Particularly to be noted are RCW 45.12.170, providing that:

            "Before the electors proceed to elect any town officer, proclamation shall be made of the opening of the polls by the moderator, and proclamation shall, in like manner, be made of the adjournment, and the opening and closing of the polls, until the election is ended."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            and, RCW 45.12.180, which provides that:

            "The supervisors, treasurer, town clerk, assessor, justices of the peace and constables in each township shall be elected by ballot.  All other officers, if not otherwise provided by law, shall be chosen either by yeas or nays or by a division, as the electors determine."

            Unquestionably, township organizations constitute a type or specie of municipal corporation, existing and recognized by the constitution and the laws of this state.  Orrock v. South Moran Township, 97 Wash. 144, 165 Pac. 1096 (1917).  Hence it would appear to follow that the statutory officers of a township are municipal officers, to be elected at the time and in the manner prescribed by the above cited statutory provisions.  Consequently, we are of the opinion that so much of an annual town meeting as is devoted to the election of township officers constitutes a general election of municipal officers within the meaning of RCW 66.44.260 and hence that, pursuant to the aforesaid statute, no intoxicating liquors may lawfully be bartered, sold, or given away, or in any manner disposed of within a township during the day on which said election is held until after the polls have been closed by proclamation in accordance with RCW 45.12.170, above quoted.

            In thus concluding we have not failed to consider the previous Attorney General's Opinion, dated August 23, 1921 (21 OAG 143) [[1921-22 OAG 143]], to the Prosecuting Attorney of Spokane County which you have directed to our attention.  However, a careful reading of this opinion, a copy of which is herein enclosed, will reveal that the type of town meeting which was therein held not to constitute an election was a "special town meeting" held pursuant to § 9340 Rem. 1915 Code (cf. RCW 45.12.110), rather than an annual town meeting devoted in part to the regular election of township officers.

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General