Inside Opinion

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Tag: Referendum 71


R-71 critics got lost in their echo chamber

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The distinction of being the first state in the nation to approve equality for same-sex couples was supposed to go to the live-and-let-live state of Maine. Instead, it will belong to Washington.

Maine voters repealed that state’s same-sex marriage law by 53 percent to 47 percent this week, handing gay rights supporters a big defeat.

There, but for the grace of King County, would have followed Referendum 71.

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Some ballot choices more crucial than others

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Voters should always take care when making their election picks, but some parts of the ballot deserve more attention than others this year.

In many South Sound races, voters have two good options, and the public will be well-served no matter the outcome of the election.
Other decisions are more pivotal. Take the election for Federal Way Municipal Court. Judge Michael Morgan has hurt the court’s standing and its internal workings. He has to go.

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Yet another threat to open elections

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

That didn’t take long.

When a federal judge ruled last month that the First Amendment bars disclosure of the petitions that put Referendum 71 on the ballot, he opened the door to a potential gutting of Washington’s open records laws. The gutting is already being attempted.

Some opponents of the state’s new same-sex domestic-benefits law, which R-71’s passage would preserve, are now pressing to go far beyond keeping petition signatures secret. A lawsuit they filed in federal court Wednesday demands that many – probably most – campaign donations also be kept secret. In fact, it insists that the Bill of Rights mandates such secrecy.

The implications of this claim are shocking. If successful, it would crack the bedrock foundation of campaign disclosure laws in Washington and other states.
Both the petition and the donation-disclosure cases have the potential to hide elections in a black box.

If the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upholds petition secrecy on First Amendment grounds, every petition for every initiative and referendum – throughout the country – will have to be treated like a state secret. There will be no way for citizens to independently assess whether elections officials verified signatures properly and lawfully put measures on the ballot.
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Return serve from the Ninth

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

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

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

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Approve R-71 to fulfill promise of civil unions

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The firestorm surrounding Referendum 71, which would keep the state’s everything-but-marriage law, is a two-pronged debate. There’s what the law does, and what might come next.

We think voters should decide R-71 based on the first question.

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The Secretary of State’s petition saga continues

When we last visited the unfolding political drama over Referendum 71, it had been revealed that the Secretary of State’s position that R-71 petitions could be released unredacted was something of a recent development.

Now comes news that the fight over R-71 petitions might have spurred an enterprising political operative to try to get copies of old initiative petitions while the getting’s good. The Secretary of State has received a request from someone trying to determine the costs of obtaining petitions for several initiatives dating back to 2000. Tim Eyman has sent a letter (pdf) to the Secretary

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R-71 news breaks from strange directions

Tim Eyman is known more for initiatives than journalism, but he actually broke some news last Wednesday that left the secretary of state’s office embarrassed.

Here’s a link to a Kitsap Sun blog that contains both Eyman’s blast and a rebuttal from Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Strip away Eyman’s off-putting blustering about fraud and lying, and he’s essentially right: The secretary of state’s office released no information about who signed petitions until 2006, when the practice began with one of Eyman’s initiatives. Read today’s editorial.

The reasons are innocent: State archivists’ resistance to storing records (such as petitions) in easily shared digital formats, and the fact that Sam Reed’s predecessors believed that the identities of initiative signers was confidential. But the fact remains that release is a very recent phenomenon.

We have a strong bias toward open public records, hence our arguments that the public ought to have access to petitions and most other government documents. Factor that bias in when you read our commentary. We’re also vehemently opposed to anyone harassing petition-signers, but we think that’s a problem to be dealt with in other ways – such as prosecution and public shaming.
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