Washington’s hot ballot measure dealing with domestic partnerships, Referendum 71, is getting national media attention, along with Maine, which is voting on actual gay marriage. But in Washington, the debate is sometimes eclipsed by a legal and public relations war over whether the R-71 petitions should be released as a public record, or kept confidential.
The New York Times’ William Yardley visited this disclosure battle in a Sunday newspaper piece ,calling the dispute a collision of “privacy, free speech and elections in the Internet age.” By permission, the photo was from your own From Our Corner blog.
Secretary of State Sam Reed has followed a legal strategy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions under the mandate of the voter-approved Public Records Act, which has no exemption for the petition sheets. Further, he views petition-signing as a public act of citizen-legislating, where transparency is required, not a private act like voting. The state, however, is under both federal and state court order to keep the petitions under wraps while litigation is under way, brought by initiative activist Tim Eyman and foes of same-sex marriage. More media spotlight came in a Seattle-datelined column by George Will of the Washington Post and Newsweek. He weighed in on the side of non-disclosure, saying he hopes the Supreme Court will “block the spreading infection of using disclosure as a tool of liberal coercion.” He did not mention that the initiative process is also used regularly by the “thuggish” liberals who have supported disclosure of public records and campaign finances.
Footnote: We’re sure you know this, but … R-71 asks voters to indicate whether they want to APPROVE or REJECT the domestic partnership bill, Senate Bill 5688, that passed the Legislature last spring.