Challenge to release of petition signers’ names is moot
OLYMPIA, Wash. — A federal appeals panel has rejected a challenge to Washington state’s policy allowing the release of signature petitions on initiatives and referendums. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the issue was moot, since the state released the signatures last year.
The three-judge panel’s Oct. 23 ruling in Doe #1 v. Reed is the latest in a long-running case over the public release of signatures submitted for 2009′s Referendum 71. Voters approved R-71, upholding the state’s so-called “everything by marriage” expansion to the state’s domestic-partnership law.
Opponents of the expansion, who had gathered the signatures to get R-71 on the ballot, had said people would be subject to harassment if the signatures were released.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, said the policy allowing signatures to be released did not infringe on First Amendment rights but said that opponents could file an “as-applied” challenge on a particular measure, which is how the case ended up back before the 9th Circuit.
The 9th Circuit noted in this week’s ruling that the names of petition signers could be found on the Internet.