Washington signature privacy battle heads to Supreme Court

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April 27, 2010

Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

OLYMPIA, Washington: Tomorrow begins the SCOTUS hearing for Doe v. Reed - a case that questions whether public release of initiative and referendum petitions should be allowed under the state's Public Records Act. The court case initially developed prior to the November 3, 2009 primary election in Washington, specifically regarding Washington Referendum 71.[1][2]

Protect Marriage Washington, a group in favor of placing the referendum on the ballot, won a ban on the disclosure of the petitions in September but lost the ban in an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, days following the Court of Appeals ruling to release the names, SCOTUS voted 8 to 1 to uphold the ban. In January 2010 the high court agreed to hear the case.

R-71 litigation documents can be found here. (dead link) SCOTUS is expected to make a decision by the end of June.[3]


  • July 29, 2009: Temporary restraining order issued by Federal Judge Benjamin Settle to halt the public release of a list of those who signed the R-71 petition.
  • September 10, 2009: Federal Judge Benjamin Settle maintained the restraining order on the signatures.
  • September 18, 2009: The state appealed the judge's ruling.
  • January 15, 2010: SCOTUS agrees to hear case
  • Late March 2010: 18 states announced their support for keeping citizen petitions as open records.
  • April 2010: a coalition of newspapers and broadcasters urged the U.S. Supreme Court to maintain that petition signatures are part of the public record.

See also

Ballotpedia News

ApprovedaUpheld Washington Referendum 71 (2009)