Signatories of petitions now subject to rules of Open Government

Supreme Court rules that petition signatures are a matter of public record and should be made available as such.

(The Spokesman-Review) The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a big victory for open government when it ruled that political petition signers do not have a broad First Amendment guarantee to hide their names from public view. The 8-1 decision stemmed from a challenge by a Washington state religious group, which sought to block the identities of people who signed Referendum 71 petitions out of fear they would be harassed for trying to overturn the state’s “everything but marriage” gay-rights law.

Of the 24 states that allow for citizen initiatives, 23 of them, including Washington and Idaho, deem petitions to be public records. When a couple of advocacy groups sought the Referendum 71 names so they could post them on the Internet, the cry arose that this would chill free speech.

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