By an 8 to 1 decision, Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that names and signatures of petitions, such as Washington State R-71 measure, can be made available to the public.
Seattle Times: Supreme Court rules petition signatures public; Ref. 71 names not immediately available
Gay Activists had sought the names and addresses of those who signed the petition seeking to place Washington’s Domestic Partnership bill, also known as “Everything Except Marriage” before the voters in an effort to prevent it from being implemented.
The measure failed and the Domestic Partnership went forward.
Gay Activists had stated they wished to have the names, addresses and signatures of petition signers to ensure no names were wrongfully placed upon the petition, but also to be able to “reach out and discuss with signers their having signed the petition.”
I am stunned that conservative justices, Samuel Alito and John Roberts agreed with this ruling as the obvious intent, as happened in California after their Proposition 8 passed, is to harass and intimidate signers of petitions activist groups may target.
The court left open the possibility of those opposed to making the names, addresses and signatures of signers public seeking and gaining an exemption in this particular case in a lower federal court due to such harassment and intimidation as has been seen in California.
In his dissent with the Supreme Court Majority Decision, Justice Thomas stated,
“Indeed, if the evidence relating to Proposition 8 is not sufficient to obtain an as-applied exemption in this case, one may wonder whether that vehicle provides any meaningful protection for the First Amendment rights of persons who circulate and sign referendum and initiative petitions.”
Justice Thomas also explained on his dissent,
“Just as ‘confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes is essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy,’ Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U. S. 1, 4 (2006) (per curiam), so too is citizen participation in those processes, which necessarily entails political speech and association under the First Amendment. In my view, compelled disclosure of signed referendum and initiative petitions1 under the Washington Public Records Act (PRA), Wash. Rev. Code §42.56.001, et seq. (2008), severely burdens those rights and chills citizen participation in the referendum process. Given those burdens, I would hold that Washington’s decision to subject all referendum petitions to public disclosure is unconstitutional because there will always be a less restrictive means by which Washington can vindicate its stated interest in preserving the integrity of its referendum process.”
Gay Activists who sought to make the names, addresses and signatures of signers available on a public searchable website have stated,
“the public has a right to know who signed petitions in the interests of transparency and since citizens who do so are acting as quasi-legislators.”
The thought that their signing petitions can also be made public and expose them to the very same backlash tactics they desire to use against any who don’t cave in to their whims obviously escapes them.
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who enjoyed wide support in his joining other states in suing over the recently passed National Healthcare Reform, aka Obamacare, has successfully fought and won this case against Washington Citizens.
In my opinion, he also just shot himself in the foot in regards to future goals of becoming Washington State Governor, if he has any such goal.
Our freedom of speech in the nation is being ever so gradually limited and restricted.
Caving in to Political Activists who’s history and stated goals is to intimidate and harass those who disagree with them has the potential to further remove the average citizen from participation in governing the land.
While I am confident the exemption stated above will be granted, the assault on our freedoms and the democratic process will not end there. We must remain ever guardful to retain and hopefully, regain some lost freedoms and liberties.