OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- PRECINCT COMMITTEEMEN ‑- ABSENTEE VOTING FOR PRECINCT COMMITTEEMEN UNDER RCW 29.36.030, AS AMENDED BY § 1, CHAPTER 73, LAWS OF 1974, 1st EX. SESS. ‑- ELECTIONS
Under RCW 29.36.030, as amended by § 1, chapter 73, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., absentee votes may not be cast for the office of precinct committeeman unless two or more candidates have filed for the same political party in the absentee voter's precinct.
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October 18, 1974
Honorable Robert A. Perry
State Representative, 32nd District
1154 North 92nd Street
Seattle, Washington 98103 Cite as: AGLO 1974 No. 87
By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on the following two questions:
"1. Under the amended laws as of the 1974 1st Ex. Sess., pp. 136-137, may a bona fide registered voter of the State of Washington vote in an absentee capacity for precinct committeemen in a non-contested [[noncontested]]election?
"2. May a bona fide registered voter of the State of Washington vote absentee for precinct committeemen in a write‑in campaign?"
We answer your first question in the negative and your second in the manner set forth in our analysis.
RCW 29.36.030 relates to the ballots which are to be issued to qualified voters who have applied under RCW 29.36.010, and have been certified to be eligible under RCW 29.36.020, to vote in a given primary or election by absentee ballot. Prior to its amendment by § 1, chapter 73, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., this statute read, in pertinent part, as follows:
"Upon receipt of the certificate, either signed by the voter or attached to the voter's signed application, the officer having jurisdiction of the election, or his duly authorized representative, shall issue an absentee ballot for the election concerned."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
By the foregoing amendment, however, the legislature added the following new paragraph:
"At each general election in the even-numbered year, each absentee voter shall also be given a separate ballot containing the names of the candidates that have filed for the office of precinct committeeman provided that two or more candidates have filed for the same political party in the absentee voter's precinct and providing space for writing in the name of additional candidates." (Emphasis supplied.)
In response to your first question, the critical language of this amendment seems quite clear. An absentee ballot to be used in voting for candidates for the office of precinct committeeman is only to be provided to a qualified absentee voter if, in the express words of the amendment, ". . . two or more candidates have filed for the same political party in the absentee voter's precinct . . ." Thus, if the race is uncontested ‑ in the sense that only one such candidate has filed ‑ no absentee ballot containing the names of candidates for the office of precinct committeeman is to be issued.
Insofar as write‑in voting (the subject of your second question) is concerned, the above quoted amendment, likewise, expressly states that the separate ballot to be used by absentee voters in voting on the office of precinct committeeman shall provide ". . . space for writing in the name of additonal candidates." Thus, assuming that two or more candidates have filed for the office of precinct committeeman for the same political party in the absentee voter's precinct, the absentee voter will be entitled not only to choose between those candidates who have filed but, in the alternative, to cast a write‑in vote for a different candidate of his own choosing.
However, because the absentee voter will only be entitled to receive a ballot covering the office of precinct committeeman if two or more candidates have filed for the office from the same political party in the absentee voter's precinct, it necessarily follows that RCW 29.36.030, as amended, currently contains no provision for write‑in votes in those instances where less than two such candidates have filed.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
To these direct responses to your two questions we would only add, lest there by an misunderstanding, that our opinion as above stated is necessarily predicated upon a presumption as to the constitutionality of the subject statute, as amended by the 1974 legislature. Accord, AGO 1971 No. 12 [[to Gordon L. Walgren, State Senator on March 16, 1971]], at pages 3-5, copy enclosed, wherein we explained in some detail the reasons for the long-standing [[longstanding]]policy of this office of presuming the constitutionality of any statute which has been duly enacted by our legislature.
If you should desire to sponsor any further amendatory legislation with respect to absentee voting for the office of precinct committeeman, we would, of course, be quite happy to assist you in the preparation of such legislation.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General