The Spokesman-Review

Hearing set over petition signatures’ privacy

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 28 whether the names on ballot measure petitions are public records.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that the date has been set on a case that is getting national attention because it involves a series of First Amendment and public records issues.

The information at the heart of the case are the names and addresses on the petitions to put Referendum 71 on last fall’s ballot. After the Legslature expanded rights for same-sex couples last spring, opponents gathered signatures to let voters overturn the bill. Supporters of gay rights requested the names under the state’s public records law, but referendum sponsors objected, saying the signers could be subjected to harassment.

Although the state has previously released the names from initiative and referendum campaigns, judges have disagreed over whether the names in this case are public records. Most recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said they are, but that ruling is on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case.


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