When the Supreme Court recently ruled that names and other information on petition sheets are a matter of public record—upholding a state law that always said they were public record—the folks trying to hide their names became outraged. They declared it a travesty of judicial activism that would expose the signers of Referendum 71, the people who wanted to vote on taking away the rights of gay couples, to public scrutiny and harassment. The very possibility that the names could be released chilled the initiative process; people would stop signing petitions!
So what happened while this case was pending? A record 75 petitions were filed this year. Six of them qualified for the ballot—matching a modern record for most number of qualified initiatives in 2000. The Secretary of State's Office counted 2.2 million signatures in all. By all reasonable estimates, this year set a state record for the number of petition signatures.
Nick Handy, the Director of Elections who works for Secretary of State Sam Reed, recently commented:
"We have heard some critics say that people will be less willing to take part in the initiative process this year, given all the talk of the Secretary of State's policy of allowing public release of petitions. But we are certainly not seeing any hesitation at all."
What the Secretary "is not seeing" is that 2.2 million people did not sign petitions this summer because he has promised to disclose their names to the public to be harvested for direct marketing and in the case of R-71, personal attacks, threats and harassment.
It must have taken a trash compactor to squeeze so much bullshit into one sentence. To believe Randall, you must believe that the only reason people didn't file an initiative or sign a petition is because of the state policy to release the names and the Supreme Court's ruling (which came down as the petitions were being circulated). But the state and Reed have always had this policy, the Public Records Act. We can also flip this absurd logic to reach in an equally absurd conclusion: Inverse to the fact that a record number of people did sign, there were arguable fewer people than ever who didn't sign. So if the R-71 dispute was the deciding factor, and fewer people than ever didn't sign petitions, then—to use Randall's logic—the R-71 case made more people sign petitions. And it made more people file initiatives. And that reasoning boggles the mind.
Two more legal hurdles are ahead before the R-71 case will conclude, actually making the petition signers' names public. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Settle will hear a case and then a Thurston County Curt judge will hear arguments—both to lift lower court blocks on the signatures. Randall and company will again make their case that gay people are a violent threat to people who sign petitions, and they will, presumably, lose again.