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Petition Signers Have To Weigh Possible Publicity

OPB | June 24, 2010 8:21 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:07 a.m. | Olympia, WA

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Some ballot measure sponsors are wondering whether you’ll think twice about signing initiative or referendum petitions in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. 

In a case from Washington State, the high court Thursday decided that signing a petition is a public act subject to disclosure.  Correspondent Tom Banse has more.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the sponsors of referendum campaign on gay domestic partnership rights in Washington State. 

Referendum co-sponsor Gary Randall wanted to keep the names of petition signers secret to prevent harassment.

Gary Randall: “I believe it will have a very chilling effect going forward, particularly on social issues.”

Anti-tax initiative sponsor Tim Eyman has a different concern. He fears businesses could harvest homes addresses from petition sheets to use for “annoying” marketing purposes.

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed counters that he’s seen no evidence of a chilling effect.

Sam Reed: “We have initiatives that are getting huge numbers of signatures this time around.  Looks like we are going to have six that make it to the ballot at least.  So if anything, it’s more robust than any other previous year for a long, long time.”

The U.S. Supreme Court left open the possibility that judges could exempt petition campaigns from disclosure on a case-by-case basis.

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