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Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases ?>

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to Washington’s policy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions, specifically the Referendum 71 signatures submitted to force a public vote on the “everything but marriage” law three years ago.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was pleased with the decision and that it honors the state voters’ commitment to the Public Records Act and transparency in government.  Reed said he hopes the challengers will let the decision stand, now that the U.S. District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in the state’s favor. Reed’s comment:

“We believe Washington residents expect open and accountable government, and it was the voters themselves who gave us our strong Public Records Act 40 years ago this year,” Reed said. “I am happy that disclosure of petitions has been without incident, and that the initiative and referendum process is alive and well, with no apparently ‘chilling’ of the process we hold dear.  I am glad that we are having civil debate this year over same-sex marriage and other difficult issues. We can disagree agreeably.”

This is the Centennial of the voters approving the initiative, referendum and recall process in Washington.

R-71 passed in 2009 with a 53 percent approval vote, upholding a new law the Legislature had passed for gay (more…)

WA gay-marriage foes virtually assured of making fall ballot ?>

WA gay-marriage foes virtually assured of making fall ballot

UPDATE with additional signatures submitted:

Preserve Marriage Washington, opponents of Washington’s new law authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples, have submitted an estimated 242,000 petition signatures, virtually assuring a public vote this fall on whether to uphold or overturn the marriage measure, Senate Bill 6239. The action blocked the law from taking effect on Thursday.

Sponsors submitted about 232,000 signatures Wednesday morning, the final day to submit petitions for a referendum. They brought in roughly 10,000 more later in the day. The total is twice the bare number of voter signatures needed to make the ballot, and apparently a record for a referendum.  (R-48, a land-use measure rejected in 1995, qualified for the ballot with 231k signatures.)

Sponsors estimated that all but about 25,000 signatures were gathered by volunteers and churches; the last increment were gathered by paid crews.

The sponsors of R-74 now will be campaigning for voters to turn down the recently passed marriage law. Supporters of “marriage equality” will be campaigning for an affirmative vote. The question for voters will be whether to approve the same-sex marriage legislation or to reject it.

Absent the R-74 challenge, the marriage law would have gone into effect on Thursday. Assuming the signature verification check turns up at least 120,577 valid voter signatures, R-74 will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, and the law will be on hold until the voters speak, and until the election is certified on Dec. 6.

After sponsor Joseph Backholm (above) held a news conference, he submitted boxloads of signatures and crews (below) at the state Elections Division counted and numbered 16,723 (more…)

Challengers seek Supreme Court order against R-71 releases ?>

Challengers seek Supreme Court order against R-71 releases

UPDATE: Protect Marriage Washington has asked U.S. Supreme Court Justce Anthony Kennedy to block release of Referendum 71 petitions while an appeal is underway in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

While that is pending, Washington’s Office of Secretary of State will suspend release of further R-71 petition DVDs.  The office has no further information on the timing of Justice Kennedy’s handling of the matter.

Earlier, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  rejected the bid by Protect Marriage Washington to block further release of Referendum 71 petitions while their appeal is proceeding.

The court, in a 2-1 ruling, said “because the court preliminarily believes that the appeal is moot because of the (previous) release of R-71 petitions, appellants’ renewed emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is denied.”

The State Archives in the Office of Secretary of State already has released more than 30 sets of the 137,000 signatures, and was releasing one more set Thursday after receiving the new court order. Discs were released under terms of the Public Records Act, for $15 plus postage and handling, after the state recently won the Doe v. Reed public records case in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

The decision is being appealed by Protect Marriage Washington and R-71 signers who don’t want to be identified.  PMW also was expected to appeal the 9th Circuit’s latest ruling on the emergency motion to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles cases arising from the circuit.

Protect Marriage Washington, part of a national alliance opposed to same-sex marriage, sponsored R-71 in 2009 to force a public vote on a newly approved “everything but marriage” law that expanded domestic partner benefits for gay couples and heterosexual couples where one partner is at least 62. Voters upheld the law 53 percent to 47 percent.

As of today, there are 9,516 domestic partnerships registered with our office.

After qualifying for the ballot, PMW successfully blocked public release of the petitions, based on contention that signers would be harassed, intimidated or injured. The case went all the way up to (more…)

R-71 petitions sealed as foes appeal ?>

R-71 petitions sealed as foes appeal

Protect Marriage Washington, which is appealing the Doe v. Reed ruling that upheld release of Referendum 71 petitions, has filed an emergency motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt further release of the petitions while the appeal proceeds.

The State Archives in the Office of Secretary of State already has released more than 30 sets of the 137,000 signatures, and has two more pending. But on advice of counsel, further releases are suspended until the court considers the emergency motion on Monday.  State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office is preparing a brief today and James Bopp Jr. and attorneys for Protect Marriage Washington  have until the end of the day to submit a rebuttal.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the state will ask the appeals bench to permit continued release of the records, noting that a number of CDs are already in public circulation following the state’s victory in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Protect Marriage Washington, part of a national movement opposed to same-sex marriage, sponsored R-71 in 2009 to force a public vote on a newly approved “everything but marriage” (more…)

Initiative petition release green-lighted ?>

Initiative petition release green-lighted

The Office of Secretary of State has begun the process of releasing copies of petitions for about a dozen initiatives, most sponsored by initiative activist Tim Eyman.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks on Friday lifted his previous ban on releasing initiative and referendum petitions under the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.  The Secretary of State’s public records officer, Brenda Galarza, on Tuesday began making arrangements with individuals who had requested the petitions submitted for 11 initiatives in earlier elections.

Political consultant/lobbyist Bryan Wahl has already ordered, and paid $1,554, to cover the costs of microfilm and digital petitions for Initiatives 722 (property tax limits), 745 (transportation), 747 (property tax limits), 776 (car tabs), 900 (state and local performance audits), 912 (gas tax rollback), 917 (car tabs), 920 (estate tax repeal), 960 (tax limits), 985 (transportation) and 1033 (revenue limits).  Open-government advocate Toby Nixon asked for the same initiatives, but may examine them at the State Archives instead.  The Archives will be making up a set for free public inspection, probably in three or four weeks.  Arthur West, a citizen activist from Olympia, also has requested access to the petitions. (more…)

Thurston judge OKs release of initiative petitions ?>

Thurston judge OKs release of initiative petitions

Judge Richard Hicks of Thurston County Superior Court has just lifted the ban on releasing initiative petitions under the state’s Public Records Act.  His decision does not allow release of Referendum 71 petitions, however, since those are still the focus of a federal lawsuit brought by foes of same-sex marriage, and the federal judge has released a ban on release at this point.

State Elections Director Nick Handy said petitions will be released as soon as possible, and that he was pleased with the decision. The main pending (non-R-71) public records requests are from Mountlake Terrace lobbyist-consultant Bryan Wahl, who requested petitions on 11 ballot measures, most from initiative activist Tim Eyman.

UPDATE: They are for Initiatives 722, 745, 747, 776, 900, 912, 917,920, 960, 985, and 1033.  Open-government advocate Toby Nixon has also requested the same ones.  Several requests also have been made for at least part of the signatures for I-1098, the pending state income tax measure, where law enforcement and prosecutors are investigating possible signature fraud.

The judge had issued the release ban last Oct. 14 as part of a legal challenge brought by Eyman and allies who oppose public release of petitions.

Six groups or individuals have requested  R-71 petition sheets, which spawned a controversy that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The high court ruled that, as a general proposition, the release of petitions does not infringe on constitutional First Amendment right to free political speech.

Protect Marriage Washington, the group that wanted to overturn the state’s new domestic partnership law via R-71, has returned to U.S. District Court to ask for continued shielding of the R-71 petitions.  Last fall, voters upheld the “everything but marriage” law and it took effect last December.

Hicks’ brief order said he had considered the arguments of both sides and had decided to dissolve the temporary restraining order he had issued last Oct. 14.

UPDATE: There was no mention of whether Eyman’s main legal challenge will continue. The judge said he was not dismissing Eyman’s case.

Secretary of State Sam Reed praised the development Friday. He said the state continues to believe that the voter-approved Public Records Act requires release of the petitions. The public wants transparency, and signing a petition is essentially the public’s way of participating directly in lawmaking, he said. Petition-signing is a public act, not a private expression such as voting, he said.

Added Elections Director Nick Handy:

“We have been for transparency since Day 1, and we believe the public wants its business, including citizen legislating, done in the light of day.  We have released 2 million petition signatures in recent years and we’re unaware of a single problem arising.”

R-71 public records update: Release ban continues ?>

R-71 public records update: Release ban continues

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle has ruled that Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed   will continue to be blocked from releasing Referendum 71 signatures while challengers mount a federal court case that aims to keep the 138,000 names under wraps permanently.

The judge, in a brief hearing in his courtroom in Tacoma on Wednesday, agreed to the Reed’s request for an expedited hearing schedule.

The challengers, Protect Marriage Washington, will release a list of its witnesses so the Attorney General and other backers of public release will be able to do discovery.  Both sides will then submit briefs and a trial will proceed as scheduled by the court, possibly in November.

Shane Hamlin, assistant state director of elections, said he was pleased that the court is putting (more…)

R-71 sponsors renew bid to ban petition release ?>

R-71 sponsors renew bid to ban petition release

UPDATE:  The Friday hearing referred to by anti-gay marriage activists will not occur. The judge has temporarily dismissed their motion to ban release of R-71 petitions, but they can re-file the request after the U.S. Supreme Court officially returns the case to the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Original post, with the new timing information added:

It’s back to court again, as foes of last year’s Referendum 71 renew a request that the petitions be sealed from public disclosure.

Protect Marriage Washington is  the group that forced a public vote last fall on the so-called  “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law. Now they’re asking the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to continue blocking release of the names and addresses of people who signed R-71 petitions. It’s not clear when the court hearing will be.  It was originally expected by challengers to occur Friday,  but the  judge has dismissed the request until he gets formal notice from the Supreme Court transferring the case back to his courtroom.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna will continue fighting for release under terms of the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 on June 24 that as a general (more…)

R-71 case: Reed, McKenna delighted with ruling ?>

R-71 case: Reed, McKenna delighted with ruling

Sam-Reed-and-Rob-McKenna-web

Washington’s big win in the Supreme Court is great news for the cause of open government and transparency, say Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Ironically, the situation that prompted the federal case, still remains uncertain. Protect Marriage Washington, a group that sought to overturn the state’s new domestic partnership law last fall, sued Reed in an effort to block him from releasing petitions, as is his policy under terms of the voter-approved Public Records Act.

The group won an injunction in U.S. District Court last September, after asserting that disclosure would violate their First Amendment right to anonymous free speech.   The state won on appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the high court has said that, broadly speaking, release of signatures is constitutional.

Here’s the catch: As expected, the court also said that individual campaigns, such as the Protect Marriage group, can ask a judge for an injunction against release, based on the “reasonable probability” that release would subject signers to harassment or injury. The R-71 case specifically, thus goes back to District Court in Tacoma.  McKenna says challengers have “a steep hill to climb” and that he doesn’t believe they can show that kind of proof.

Another roadblock to releasing other initiative petitions: Initiative activist Tim Eyman has a (more…)

R-71 petition case drawing national attention ?>

R-71 petition case drawing national attention

A Washington state public-records case involving initiative and referendum petitions is one of two big cases headed to the U.S. Supreme Court from the West in April.  Both are drawing national attention because they involve tricky First Amendment issues, political participation, and the right of government to lay down rules for non-discrimination and for open and transparent government.

r71four

Both cases arise from our 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. One deals with whether a law school may deny recognition to a student group that bars homosexuals.  The appeals bench sided with the college.   The other case, which also arose from a controversy about gay rights, is our own Doe v. Reed. The case deals with whether the Secretary of State is legally sound in declaring that the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act requires release of petition sheets from initiatives and referenda in response to a valid public records request.  The appeals bench sided with the state.

Protect Marriage Washington, the group that sponsored an unsuccessful bid to overturn a new “everything but marriage” law expanding domestic partner benefits, is arguing that people (more…)