Congress Shall Make No Law...
12:12 PM
Transparency of Harassment

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. Reed that people who sign a petition seeking to place a ballot measure before the voters do not have a general right to anonymity under the First Amendment.  The case concerned signers to a referendum— Referendum 71, to overturn Washington’s domestic partnership law.  The Supreme Court accepted the arguments from the State and supporters of the law that the names of the petition signers shwashingtonould be released in order to, among other things, “combat[] fraud, detect[] invalid signatures, and foster[] government transparency and accountability.”  The Court remanded the case to the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to consider the plaintiffs’ specific argument that identifying the signers publicly would facilitate the harassment of these individuals by supporters of the domestic partnership law.


The Everett Herald reports that Referendum 71’s proponents have now filed a motion in district court on remand seeking to keep the names of the signatories from being released.  The fact that this case is still going on is interesting.  Referendum 71 lost badly at the polls.  The continued pressure for the public disclosure of petition signers—despite the fact that the referendum is deader than Francisco Franco—indicates there may be other motives besides “transparency” behind the effort to release these names.  The fact that the effort continues also suggests that the Court should have taken more seriously the argument that the release of these names by the government facilitates harassment and coercion by political and ideological operatives.


We will continue to update our readers on this case as it progresses through the courts.