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AGO 1954 No. 190 - January 08, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS ‑- MUNICIPAL ADVISORY VOTE ‑- ADVANCEMENT OF CLASSIFICATION OF CITY --CITY ‑- SECRETARY OF STATE

Whether the commissioners of a city of the third class operating under a commission form of government have authority to expend municipal funds in submitting to the voters the question of advancement to the rank of first class cities under charter government for an advisory vote, is a proper subject to be covered by administrative rule to be issued by the secretary of state under RCW 29.04.080.

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                                                                  January 8, 1954

Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 190

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your letter of December 15, 1953, posing certain questions arising out of the following situation:

            A city of the third class operating under a commission form of government is considering advancing to the rank of first class under a charter government.  The commissioners wish to place an advisory question on the city primary election ballot to determine the wishes of the electors concerning the advancement of classification.  The cost of adding such advisory question to the ballot will be negligible.  The reason for the submission of the advisory question is to avoid the excessive cost of election of freeholders, publication of the full text of the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] proposed charter for 30 consecutive days and final election in the event such advancement is not favored by the majority of the electors.

            Your question is:  Do the city commissioners have authority to expend municipal funds in submitting such an advisory question to the voters at the approaching city primary?

            Our answer is that the matter is not governed by any statutory provision, consequently it is a proper subject to be governed by administrative rule issued by the secretary of state as chief elections officer.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 35.06.030 expressly authorizes the submission of such question to the electors in a situation where a census has shown that a city belongs to the higher class and where a prescribed petition has been filed.  However, chapter 35.22 RCW, relating to the organization of cities of the first class under a charter form of government, appears to be in partial conflict with that section in that no provision is made in the latter section for submitting that question alone to the electors.  Consequently, there seems to be no express statutory authority for the submission of such a question to the voters.

            The general rule is that city commissioners have only those powers which are expressly vested in them by statute or those necessarily implied by the powers granted.  However, in the field of elections, the secretary of state is required by RCW 29.04.080 to make rules and regulations not inconsistent with state, city and town election laws to facilitate the execution of the provisions of the election laws in an orderly manner.  In this situation, the question of the need for such a vote or the propriety thereof does not appear to be governed by statute.  We believe that it is a proper subject to be governed by administrative rule to be issued by the secretary of state under the provisions of RCW 29.04.080.

            It should be noted, however, that since the submission of this preliminary question is not a part of the regular statutory procedure for advancement, the resulting answer of the vote of the people would be advisory only.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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