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Initiative petitions: Get ‘em while they’re still public?

Post by Kim Bradford on Oct. 13, 2009 at 4:33 pm with 3 Comments »
October 14, 2009 5:46 pm

A former lobbyist for the Washington Association of Realtors has coughed up $1,589 to get copies of the petition sheets from 11 citizen initiatives dating back to 2000.

I previously speculated that Bryan Wahl could be trying to get copies of old petitions while the getting’s good since the fight over Referendum 71’s petition sheets has threatened to shut down public disclosure of the names of people who sign initiatives and referenda.

R-71 sponsors say public release is a violation of petition signers’ First Amendment right to anonymous political speech. The Secretary of State’s office maintains that the petition sheets are public records, until someone tells it differently. (A federal district court has enjoined the state from releasing the R-71 petitions, but no others.)

If I were Wahl, I’d skedaddle over to the Secretary of State’s office to pick those puppies up. Oral arguments in the R-71 case are scheduled for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tomorrow morning, and the court is expected to turn a decision around quickly.

Should the decision not go the way we hope, Wahl could conceivably become the last person to get petition sheets out of the Secretary of State’s office.

UPDATE: Wahl may be too late. David Ammons at the Secretary of State’s office just emailed to say that Tim Eyman has filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court to block the release of the petition sheets. Most of the initiatives that Wahl had in his sights were Eyman’s own. A telephone conference call is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday to consider Eyman’s request for a temporary restraining order.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. jimkingjr says:

    Just can’t trust Sam Reed. Any public official with an ounce of integrity would have told Wahl, “Wait until the court makes a decision.” Not Sam Reed.

    Realtors would not have sued. Status quo would have been maintained until the current case was final. No pretense that we need to check those old petitions for any reason- just being grabbed to build the Realtors’ database.

    Maybe Tim should sue to have all voting records, including voter registration cards, removed from Sam’s grasp before he reinterprets the law on those.

  2. jimkingjr says:

    The more I think about this, the more I wonder if those who have defended treating information on petitions as public are willing to look beyond any of the R-71 rhetoric (on both sides) and look at what this change by Sam Reed and Rob McKenna is really leading to in our state.

    The Realtors are not going to be harassing anyone for having signed any of these petitions. Nor are they going to be checking out the prior verifications.

    They are obviously going to be data-mining- gathering personal information for whatever purpose they choose to pursue. Is that why we have Open Public Records? Are we really wanting to have this information outb thyere to be used for whatever reason?

    There are reasons this information has been held to be private by a long string of Secretaries of State and Attorneys General, and by our state courts. Without even getting into the R-71 arguments, it should be clear that there is no good public policy reason for releasing such information, and plenty of reasons not to do so.

  3. jimkingjr says:

    The Thurston County Superior Court granted the TRO, wanting to maintain, at the minimum, the status quo until the Ninth Circuit rules. Too bad Sam Reed didn’t have that level of integrity and common sense.

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