State v. Gaines

Decision Date30 November 1925
Docket Number19313.
Citation241 P. 12,136 Wash. 610
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE ex rel. BLANKENSHIP v. GAINES, Chairman of Board of County Com'rs, et al.

Appeal from Superior Court, King County; Gilliam, Judge.

Action by the State, on the relation of H. O. Blankenship, against William A. Gaines, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, and others, to compel cancellation of a certificate declaring a special election to have been lost and issuance of a new certificate. From a judgment for plaintiff directing issuance of a new certificate, named defendant and others appeal. Reversed.

Main and Askren, JJ., dissenting.

Ewing D. Colvin, Howard A. Hanson, Stanley Kent, and William H Gorham, all of Seattle, for appellants.

Van C Griffin, of Seattle, for respondent.

HOLCOMB J.

This was an action to compel the county election board to cancel its certificate declaring a special election to have been lost and issue a new certificate declaring the election to have been carried for the proposition submitted.

On November 4, 1924, a special election was held in the incorporated town of Tukwila, a city of the fourth class, in King county, upon the question of the dissolution of the corporation. The return of the election officers showed 107 votes 'for dissolution' and 96 votes 'against dissolution.' Upon the canvass of the returns of the election by the election board of King county, that board refused to issue a certificate declaring the election carried because, while there was a majority of the votes cast for dissolution, there was not a majority of the actual registered voters. The registration books showed 241 registered voters. It was the view of the canvassing board that it required a majority of the registered voters to carry the election, and not merely a majority of the registered voters voting at the particular election. The superior court upon a hearing overruled the election board, and directed the certificate issued, and from the judgment so entered, the appeal is prosecuted.

The question is whether the election was determined by a majority of votes cast, or whether the election board was justified in ascertaining the number of registered voters in the town and then holding that, since the vote for dissolution was not a majority of the registered vote, the proposition was lost. The solution of this question calls for a construction of that provision of section 8919, Rem. Comp. Stat., which is:

'If the vote 'for dissolution' be a majority of the registered voters of such city or town, such corporation shall be deemed dissolved.'

The particular question is what is meant by 'registered voters' as it appears in this statute. Respondent cites and relies upon cases where, as in Yesler v Seattle, 1 Wash. 308, 25 P. 1014, it was held that there was no difference in meaning between 'three-fifths of the voters' and 'three-fifths of the qualified voters,' the court being of the view that the word 'qualified' added nothing, because 'every voter is a qualified voter' (in the present case we do not have the words 'qualified voters' but those of 'registered voters'); and in People v. Bell, 119 N.Y. 175, 28 N.E. 533, where it was said:

'Registration is the method of proof prescribed for ascertaining the electors who are qualified to cast votes, and the registers are the lists of such electors.'

Under the registration system, the evidence of an elector's right to vote is the registration list, and it is from this that his right to cast a ballot at the election is determined. That the holding in Yesler v. Seattle, supra, is in accord with what appears to be the great weight of authority, see 20 C.J. p. 205; Vance v. Austell, 45 Ark. 400; Town of Southington v. Southington Water Co., 80 Conn. 646, 69 A. 1023, 12 Ann. Cas. 411; Taylor v. McFadden, 84 Iowa, 262, 50 N.W. 1070.

The plain language of the statute is the law. It needs no interpretation.

'When the language of the act is plain, free from ambiguity, and devoid of uncertainty, it is unanimously held that there is no room for construction, and that inconvenience following the enforcement of the law as expressed can have no weight in the construction of the statute.' Walker v. Spokane, 62 Wash. 312, 113 P. 775, Ann. Cas. 1912C, 994.
'The established rule is that in all elections the votes specified by the law must be obtained to render valid the results.' 2 McQuillan Municipal Corporations, § 418.

The general rule followed in Yesler v. Seattle, supra, holding that there is no difference in meaning between 'three-fifths of the voters' and 'three-fifths of the qualified voters,' because the word 'qualified' adds nothing, since every voter is a qualified voter, does not apply to such a case as this. In the proceedings involved here, the statutes providing for dissolution of cities of the third and fourth class (sections 8914, 8915, 8918 and 8919, Rem. Comp. Stats.) require and prescribe registered voters only.

Section 8915, supra, provides that:

'Whenever a petition signed by a majority of the lawfully registered voters of a city of the third or fourth class * * * shall be filed with the council of such city, or whenever a petition signed by a majority of the lawfully registered voters of an
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6 cases
  • Shelton Hotel Co., Inc. v. Bates
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • July 10, 1940
    ... ... Bates, ... Commissioner of Unemployment Compensation and Placement of ... the state of Washington, to obtain a judgment declaratory of ... the plaintiff's rights, status, and legal relations under ... the Unemployment ... construction. Walker v. Spokane, 62 Wash. 312, 113 ... P. 775, Ann.Cas.1912C, 994; State ex rel. Blankenship v ... Gaines, 136 Wash. 610, 241 P. 12; In re Eaton's ... Estate, 170 Wash. 280, 16 P.2d 433; Featherstone v ... Dessert, 173 Wash. 264, 22 P.2d ... ...
  • Euwema v. Todman
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Virgin Islands
    • March 3, 1971
    ...(1939), Stembridge v. Newton, 213 Ga. 304, 99 S.E.2d 133 (1957), Allen v. Burkhart, 377 P.2d 821 (Okl.1963), State ex rel. Blankenship v. Gaines, 136 Wash. 610, 241 P. 12 (1925). 4 Revised Organic Act § 8(a), 48 U.S.C. § 1574(a) 5 See, In re Todd, 208 Ind. 168, 193 N.E. 865 (1935), City of ......
  • Euwema v. Todman
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Virgin Islands
    • March 3, 1971
    ...Stembridge v. Newton, 213 Ga. 304, 99 S.E.2d 133 (1957); Allen v. Burkhart, 377 P.2d 821 (Okla. 1963); State ex rel. Blankenship v. Gaines, 136 Wash. 610, 241 Pac. 12 (1925). 4. Revised Organic Act § 8(a), 48 U.S.C. § 1574(a) (1964). 5. See, In re Todd, 208 Ind. 168, 193 N.E. 865 (1935); Ci......
  • Jordan v. O'Brien
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • June 24, 1971
    ...The statute means exactly what it says. Shelton Hotel Co. v. Bates, 4 Wash.2d 498, 104 P.2d 478 (1940); State ex rel. Blankenship v. Gaines, 136 Wash. 610, 241 P. 12 (1925). In support of the foregoing position, respondent cites Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, p. 16......
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