Op-Ed: Referendum 71 signers’ names are a matter of public record and should be disclosed.
April 27, 2010
As posted on theolympian.com:
"At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna will stand before the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court and launch a spirited defense of this state's Public Records Act.
"The stakes are huge. In jeopardy are accountability and transparency in government operations, the public’s right to know and whether citizens can access voting records to determine whether fraud has been committed. He will argue that the names of people who signed Referendum 71 are a matter of public record and should be disclosed.
"On the other side, lawyers representing Protect Marriage Washington, an organization that unsuccessfully opposed a new law giving gay couples expanded rights, will argue that the names of petition signers should be kept secret.
"The core question before the Supreme Court is whether this state’s open records law violates the free speech rights of those voters who signed Referendum 71 petitions by requiring their names to be made public. Those who want to keep the names secret say they fear harassment and intimidation for signing the anti-gay rights ballot measure.
"McKenna’s legal team won at the federal appeals court level. Let’s hope the attorney general is equally successful before the nation’s highest court.
..."McKenna said signing initiative and referendum petitions is a way citizens participate in the legislative process. He said that those names become public records when the sponsor submits petition sheets to the Secretary of State for verification. 'We don’t legislate in secret in this state,' McKenna said.
“'This is a legislative act, not core political speech.'
Secretary of State Sam Reed echoed that thought, which will be a central argument of the state’s case Wednesday. 'We firmly believe that participating in the initiative and referendum process is a public act of citizen legislating, with disclosure of petitions required under the framework of our Public Records Act,' Reed said. 'We also believe we can provide transparency and accountability in elections without violating voters’ constitutional rights, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals correctly decided.'"
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