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Return serve from the Ninth

Post by David Seago on Oct. 15, 2009 at 1:23 pm with 1 Comment »
October 15, 2009 1:37 pm

Just in: The dizzying judicial tennis match over disclosure of petition signatures for Referendum 71 continues with a hard backhand return by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Ninth today declared Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed can and should release the signatures promptly pending further consideration of appeals.
The Ninth overturned a U.S. District Court ruling Sept. 10 ordering the signatures withheld pending resolution of the legal fight.

Here’s the Washington Policy Center’s alert on the latest ruling.

I have mixed feelings on this one. I think voters regard signing initiative petitions as a form of voting and expect that their signatures will be kept private and not used for commercial or political purposes.

The signature records should be open. But to guard against a backlash, Reed or the Legislature should take steps to keep the lists from being misused.

I’m a board member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which contends referendum and initiative signatures should be public record.

Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. jimkingjr says:

    David- what IS the proper use of the lists, if released? I have yet to hear of a good public purpose served by release.

    Release does not provide a means for independent testing of the state’s verification process, because the signatures from the voter registration cards are NOT subject to release.

    And if these are public records subject to release, why the prohibition in RCW 29A.72.230-

    “The verification and canvass of signatures on the petition may be observed by persons representing the advocates and opponents of the proposed measure so long as they make no record of the names, addresses, or other information on the petitions or related records during the verification process except upon the order of the superior court of Thurston county.”

    Is there any other instance in law- or practice- where a public record open to release has such a prohibition on note-taking?

    The primary purpose for obtaining these lists is data-mining of personal information. Is that what Open Public Records is really about? I truly doubt that is what the authors of the initiative thought, back in 1972.

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