Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

In 2009, Washington state voters considered a ballot question, Referendum 71, on whether to uphold a new law expanding domestic partnership rights. The referendum was the work of opponents of the controversial law; supporters, obviously, would have been happy to see it enacted without challenge.

Some 138,000 Washingtonians signed the petition to post the question. But they failed to prevent the law from taking effect: It was approved last November 53 percent to 47 percent.

Now there’s controversy about whether publicly releasing the names of petition signers can be justified in the name of transparency.

Of course, this is transparency not of government — allowing civic monitoring of power and purse — but of citizens’ political acts. Those eager to see the names mostly claim they want to make sure the signatures are valid. But with 47 percent of the electorate having voted No, is there really any doubt that opposition was widespread enough to yield the required number of petition signatures?

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that petition signers enjoy no First-Amendment-implied right to anonymity. But the court suggested that disclosure of the petitioners’ names might be blocked on the grounds of a plausible threat that signers would be harassed, as some foes of the law have been already.

So a group called Protect Marriage Washington has secured a court order to keep the names sealed until it can argue in court that intimidation of petition signers is indeed likely.

Stay tuned.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. S Rubicon says:

    Not sure how this all works out legally, but if signers were told in writing their names would not be publicly revealed, and/or only revealed to a court or investigation body for the purposes of verification of signatures, then those signers had a binding contract. To violate that contract would be a serious offense & would open up anyone who went after the signers to all sorts of civil damages claims I would think.
    If our own courts will not protect petition signers from after the fact harassment by anti-petition types, then what we have is another example of anarchy.
    If conservatives had done this to liberals over the decades as liberals petitioned for this change & that change, those same liberals would have mounted a hew & cry or biblical proportions. Isn’t it amazing how times change what some think privacy means?

  2. Ruth says:

    I have very mixed feelings about this one. Part of me thinks that individuals should own their political acts. That is, if you want to sign a petition to take away the rights of a segment of the population you should be willing to be held personally and publicly responsible for that decision. In fact, with voters making bad decisions I am not so sure that the time for a secret ballot should be over.
    On the other hand, we are all concerned about unwarranted governmental hassles about our private political decisions.
    I don’t know, but I think I come down on the side of transparency and personal responsibility.

  3. Drik says:

    Wonder why the “supremes” can’t connect to the idea that blue collar voters would be just as likely to be harrassed (read: beat up and their families threatened) by the Union Card Check bill

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