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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 14, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Referendum 71

A swell idea for Judge Settle

The Seattle Times editorial “The good fight” from Sept. 12 agreed with state Attorney General Rob McKenna that names of those who sign referendums may be considered a public record, and should be released. U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle has disagreed and blocked the release. I have a suggestion that may afford ground for compromise between McKenna and Judge Settle.

Why not make the names public — but only after the November election? The actions of those who originally sought the names suggest their interest in the information is not simply public-spirited support of open government, but political intimidation and possibly personal harassment. This could invite vandalism or even physical assault, as occurred recently in California in connection with Proposition 8.

Allowing the release of the names would fulfill the state’s commitment to open government. Delaying the release until after the election would defuse the possibility of the information being used to plan attacks on supporters of Referendum 71.

As the editorial said, “Menacing, threatening behavior is unlawful and must be punished.” That is all well and good, but release of the names before the election is a temptation to such behavior, and also may have a chilling effect on the referendum process.

Why encourage it? Why not take away the incentive for such behavior by putting off the release of the names?

— Randall West, Edmonds

Signing a petition should not be taken lightly

Judge Settle’s decision about petition signatures being protected under the First Amendment is an alarming action. Signing a petition is a lawmaking action as explained by Secretary of State Sam Reed, and the anticipated threats and harassment cannot be the reason for this ruling.

If I put an unpopular campaign sign in my yard, I may experience threats and harassment too, but I do have the protection of law if someone takes my sign and tries to hit me with it. People who put their name on a petition are doing more than putting an opinion out in the public arena, they are taking the responsibility of a lawmaker. Because petitions make all voters have to consider a revision of law, it is my right as a voter to know who is forcing this issue onto the ballot. I may have to contact Olympia to request this, but it is clearly a matter of public record, and I should not have to provide a compelling public interest.

No matter what you think of R-71, we all have a compelling public interest in keeping the petitions records completely open.

— Maggie Corrigan, Seattle

Getting it right, the first time around

Jon Hed said signatures on petitions should be private for the same reason voters’ identifications are secret, [“A signature, like a vote, is private,” Northwest Voices, Opinion, Sept. 12]. Wrong. We voters need to know who wants to influence us and why. Revealing who buys an argument or not is an invasion of privacy that only helps the influence peddlers.

In “Signing also supports direct democracy,” Todd Beuke said people who initiate referendums just like direct democracy. In other words, they prefer to spend taxes at the ballot box to second-guess our representatives. Please Beuke, teach your students how government works, what it costs, and how to persuade our representatives to pass the right laws the first time. We do not need more ignorant voters who just want lower taxes.

— James Bruner, Oak Harbor

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