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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 9, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Referendum 71

Editorial at odds with position on access to information

The Times’ editorial in favor of not revealing the identity of those who sign state referendum petitions, including Referendum 71 to overturn equal rights and responsibilities for domestic partnerships, is at odds with The Time’s position in favor of providing information to voters about legislators’ activities.

When voters seek to enact a statute by initiative or repeal a statute by referendum, voters place themselves in the position of the Legislature. The Times would not countenance secret legislative sponsorship and should not favor secret legislative sponsorship through petition.

Under current law, petition signatures are public. The revelation The Times opposes is a result of technological change that makes it possible for voters to garner the benefits of the current openness requirement.

The fundamental reason to oppose secrecy for petition signers is because legislating should occur only through a process that requires participants to demonstrate the courage of their convictions by public statement (i.e., signing the petition). Just as The Times is in favor of knowing the names of the initiators of a petition (and revealing those names in the newspaper for the benefit of voters), it should be in favor of voters’ access to the names of petition signers. Secrecy corrodes democracy.

— Bob Shirley, Olympia

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