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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…)

U.S. high court declines to block R-71 petitions ?>

U.S. high court declines to block R-71 petitions

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected efforts by foes of gay-marriage to block Washington state from releasing Referendum 71 petitions while an appeal is underway in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court gave no reasoning for denying the motion by Protect Marriage Washington to issue an injunction.  The order indicates that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is responsible for motions arising from the 9th Circuit, referred the request to the full court, which did not support the motion. The order indicates that Justice Alito was the lone vote in favor of blocking release of the petitions during the appeals process, and that Justice Kagan did not take part in the court’s deliberation.

“This means that we can once again release these public records,” said Katie Blinn, the state elections co-director.

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle and the 9th Circuit had previously declined to block release of the petitions while the appeal is underway. The state already had released more than 30 sets of petitions, under terms of the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.  The law makes no exemption for initiative and referendum petitions.

Protect Marriage Washington, part of a national alliance opposed to same-sex marriage, (more…)

R-71 petition challenge heads back to court in May ?>

R-71 petition challenge heads back to court in May

(UPDATED AT 12:25 p.m., Nov. 19 to show Eyman has dropped his state lawsuit.)

Protect Marriage Washington, gay-marriage opponents who sponsored a public vote on the state’s new domestic partnership law last November, have been given a May 31 trial date for their effort to ban public release of the 138,000 names of people who signed Referendum 71 petitions.

In the meantime, the names will remain sealed, under a ruling from the bench this week by U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 on June 24 that, as a general matter, releasing petitions doesn’t violate signers’ constitutional rights. But the court also left open the possibility of narrower challenges to release of specific measures such as R-71.

As expected, that challenge is heading back to Settle’s court. He is the judge who originally blocked release of the petition sheets last fall, citing constitutional grounds. He was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but now the “as-applied” challenge will commence this coming spring.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, represented by Attorney General Rob McKenna, continue to advocate for release of the signatures under terms of the broad voter-approved Public Records Act.  The referendum process is  citizen legislating and Washington voters expect the process to be open and transparent, not secret, Reed said.  The other side, represented by Indiana activist attorney James Bopp Jr., fears that disclosure would lead to harassment or intimidation of signers.

Every state with the initiative process, except for California, treats petitions as releasable public records.

R-71 petitions have not been released publicly, although a number of public records requests are pending.

In September, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks lifted his broad ban on release of initiative and referendum petitions, but R-71 was not included.

Bopp and attorneys for initiative activist Tim Eyman, meanwhile, dropped their broad challenge of the state’s policy of treating petitions as releasable public records.  Eyman said in a statement “We’ll continue to monitor the federal lawsuit and pursue other ways to counter this injustice.”

Voters upheld the “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic partnership benefits last fall, and the law went into effect last December. Benefits to gay couples and senior opposite-sex domestic partners accrue to people on the Secretary of State’s registry. As of today, that’s 8,231 couples.

R-71 case: Nearly 2m signatures released w/o incident ?>

R-71 case: Nearly 2m signatures released w/o incident

The state Elections Division, preparing for another court challenge of the Secretary of State’s policy of releasing initiative petitions under terms of the voter-approved Public Records Act, notes that nearly 2 million signatures have been released in recent years, without apparent incident.

By the numbers:

Year Released Initiative Initiative Subject Number of Signatures Submitted
2006 & 2007 917 Motor Vehicle Charges 265,809
2006 & 2007 920 Estate Tax 395,219
2009 933 Regulation of Private Property 317,353
2007 937 Energy Resources 337,804
2008 1029 Long-Term Care 318,047
2009 1033 Limiting certain  revenue 315,444
Total Signatures Released 1,949,676
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 petition challenge heading back to court ?>

R-71 petition challenge heading back to court

Protect Marriage Washington, gay-marriage opponents who forced a public vote on the state’s new domestic partnership law last November, are heading back to court to try to ban public release of the 138,000 names of people who signed Referendum 71 petitions.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 on June 24 that, as a general matter, release of petitions does not violate voters’ constitutional rights. But the court also left open the possibility of narrower challenges to release of specific measures, such as R-71.

As expected, that challenge is heading back to a Tacoma jurist, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle, who originally blocked release of the petition sheets last fall, citing constitutional grounds. He was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but now the “as-applied” challenge will commence.

State Elections Director Nick Handy says word from Attorney General Rob McKenna is that Judge Settle has set a conference for Aug. 11 to discuss how to proceed with the case.  The judge may decide to issue a ban on disclosure of the petitions until the case is heard and decided, along with scheduling of motions and a hearing on the merits, Handy said Wednesday.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and McKenna will continue to advocate for release of the signatures under terms of the voter-approved Public Records Act.  The referendum process is  “direct democracy,” citizen legislating, and Washington voters want the process to be open and transparent, not secret, Reed said.  The other side, represented by Indiana activist attorney James Bopp Jr., fears that disclosure would lead to harassment or intimidation of signers. (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…)

Reed, McKenna optimistic about R-71 case ?>

Reed, McKenna optimistic about R-71 case

Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed emerged from the U.S. Supreme Court today optimistic that the high court will allow Washington and other states to treat initiative and referendum petitions as releasable public records.

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McKenna, making his third appearance before the court, and Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, both said they counted a majority of the justices who seemed sympathetic to Washington’s argument that the vote-approved Public Records Act requires release of petitions to those who make a request and pay the duplication cost. They said the court didn’t seem inclined to pull down all disclosure laws.

“My team and I think it went well,” McKenna said in a joint news conference with Reed after the one-hour hearing before a packed court, including Justice John Paul Stevens hearing his last case.  Reed concurred, saying McKenna did a persuasive job and that he’s optimistic of a win, which would be nationally significant.

McKenna said he expects a ruling within about eight weeks, by the end of June. One likely outcome, he indicated, is that the high court refuses to adopt a blanket constitutional guarantee of anonymity for people who sign petitions, but leaves open the door for specific exceptions if a sponsor can show a judge compelling evidence that harassment and (more…)

R-71 records: McKenna, Reed head to Supreme Court ?>

R-71 records: McKenna, Reed head to Supreme Court

Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed hope to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state’s strong voter-approved Public Records Act and the policy of allowing release of initiative and referendum petitions, as most states do.

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IMG_8379Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, is the respondent in the closely watched Doe v. Reed lawsuit that could affect how petitions are handled across America.  He and McKenna met with the press on Monday to describe the landmark nature of the case, and to express optimism that the state will prevail.  Oral arguments are on Wednesday of next week.  McKenna will spend this next week in D.C. preparing, and will be joined by Reed for the hearing.

A quick recap: foes of a newly passed “everything but marriage” law expanding domestic partner benefits mounted Referendum 71 to place the issue on last November’s statewide ballot. When some supporters of the new law announced plans to request copies of the R-71 petition sheets, Protect Marriage Washington secured a federal court order blocking the public (more…)