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West Virginia Supreme Court hears appeal on petition signatures

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September 14, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court heard oral arguments to determine if petition signatures are open records on September 8, 2010[1].

The Observer of Sheperdstown filed an appeal to the state's highest court in response to a Jefferson County Circuit Court ruling that found petition signatures from a zoning referendum are not public records[1].

Stephanie Grove, legal counsel for Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, argued that petition signatures are not public records. Grove also argued that petition signatures are equivalent to a secret ballot. Stephen Skinner, legal counsel for the newspaper, argued that petition signatures should be made public. Skinner cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found disclosure of petition signatures improves transparency and promotes integrity in the initiative process[1].

In June of 2010, the nation's highest court ruled in a near-unanimous decision that petition signatures in Washington State are open records[1].

A ruling on the case is expected to be released in December of 2010[1].

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