Tim Eyman e-newsletter, September 16, 2009
|Tim Eyman newsletters|
September 16, 2009
To: Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc'd to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)
From: Tim Eyman
RE: BOMBSHELL: SECRETARY OF STATE HAS BEEN PERPETRATING A FRAUD (RE: PETITIONS AND THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT)
Secretary of State Sam Reed and officials and lawyers in his office have been saying for months that signers' names, signatures, and home addresses on initiative and referendum petitions have, throughout our state’s history, been made available to the public and that U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle’s recent ruling overturns that longstanding practice and law.
Turns out that’s not true.
From 1912, when the ballot measure process was first enacted, until 1972, initiative and referendum petitions were not subject to review by anyone except the courts.
In 1972, the voters approved Initiative 276, the Public Records Act. The Secretary of State and his surrogates have been saying for months that that law made petitions "government documents" subject to review by everyone.
Turns out that’s not true either.
The Secretary of State’s misinformation campaign has whipped into a frenzy our state’s newspaper editorial boards, journalists, columnists, the gay rights community, the faith community, and regular citizens over the past few months during this fight over Referendum 71.
The people have not been well-served.
According to Don Whiting, a very well-respected, now retired official with the Secretary of State’s office from 1968 through 2000, the truth is much different than we’ve all been led to believe.
As pointed out by Mr. Whiting, the Public Records Act made petitions “government documents,” however, the PRA specifically included this statute (RCW 42.56.210) that is still the law and it reads: The exemptions of this chapter are inapplicable to the extent that information, the disclosure of which would violate personal privacy or vital governmental interests, can be deleted from the specific records sought.
Citizens’ names, signatures, and home addresses on initiative and referendum petitions are clearly “personal information” and as such, the Secretary of State from 1972 through 2000, following the clear mandate of RCW 42.56.210, refused to violate the personal privacy of citizens who signed initiative and referendum petitions. During that time, the Secretary of State’s policy was to tell petition “requesters” that they could get the petitions but that all the personal information on them would be blacked out or redacted unless they got a court order (the statute specifically allows people to go to court to show cause why the personal information should not be removed).
On December 31, 2000, Secretary of State Ralph Munro retired as did Don Whiting.
During Sam Reed’s first six years as Secretary of State, that policy remained the same.
That changed in 2006.
In January of 2006, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, and I co-sponsored Initiative 917, “Save Our $30 Tabs.” It was our third attempt to require $30 car tabs for everyone.
Very powerful opponents were arrayed against it.
What followed were several challenges because of the Secretary of State.
In 2005, the Legislature passed House Bill 1222 which required the printing of a declaration on the back of petitions. During the debate on the bill, we were assured by one of its sponsors, Rep. Toby Nixon, that it had to be printed on the back of the petition but didn’t need to be filled out by the circulator. In January, 2006, before we printed our petitions, we confirmed that fact with the Secretary of State. So we printed it on the back of our petitions BUT NOT VERY PROMINENTLY and mailed them out to tens of thousands of supporters on our database.
Two weeks later, after our signature drive had began and was moving full steam ahead, we were notified by the Secretary of State that they had changed their position and that now they said it was required for the circulator to include their name on the back of the petition AND IF IT WASN’T THERE, THE SIGNATURES ON THE FRONT WOULD NOT BE COUNTED.
This forced us to start over, ‘recall’ our old petitions and throw away tens of thousands of not-yet-used petitions, and reprint them with A MUCH MORE PROMINENT request for the circulator’s name on the back, and we had to resend them to our tens of thousands of supporters. This was expensive, but more significantly, it was hugely disruptive.
Toby Nixon, strongly dissatisfied with the Secretary of State’s changed position, asked for and received an Attorney General’s opinion in May of that year that reversed the Secretary of State’s twisted interpretation, and said that valid voter signatures would count, regardless of whether the back of the petitions were filled out.
We turned in our petitions in July.
Three days later, we were notified that instead of our signature count of 300,353, the Secretary of State had determined that we had turned in only 266,006.
A full signature verification check was initiated because the smaller number didn’t allow for statistical sampling.
On September 19, 2006, opponents of I-917 made a public records request for the I-917 petitions.
The Secretary of State scanned all the petitions with citizen signers' names, signatures, and home addresses unredacted, put them on CDs, and turned them over to the opponents of I-917.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE VIOLATED THE LAW (RCW 42.56.210) WHEN THEY DID THAT, OVERTURNING 33 YEARS OF SECRETARY OF STATE POLICY UNDER I-276. THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME IN WASHINGTON STATE'S HISTORY WITH BALLOT MEASURES -- 94 YEARS -- THAT THE PERSONAL, PRIVATE INFORMATION OF CITIZENS WHO SIGNED A PETITION WAS NOT PROTECTED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE, DESPITE A LAW MANDATING SUCH PROTECTION.
The Secretary of State’s decision to violate the law to help opponents of I-917 has now led to the likely overturning of the Public Records Act.
The Secretary of State is forcing taxpayers to spend a tremendous amount of time and money to clean up a mess that they created.
The Secretary of State has perpetrated a fraud upon the people and the press and the courts by repeatedly saying that citizens' names, signatures, and addresses on petitions have always been made public.
That’s clearly not true.
So please, would everyone please stop perpetuating the myth that this is a century-old policy and law? Please, would the newspaper editorial boards back off on the chest-thumping editorials demanding citizens' names, signatures, and home addresses be released, despite the existence of a law that requires citizens' personal information be redacted? Citizens have had a right to privacy, and their personal information has been protected, from 1912 to 2006. Please, let's not allow the Secretary of State to get away with whipping us into a frenzy about a policy that they manufactured just 3 years ago.
Again, the people have not been well-served.
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