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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 |
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.

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