West Virginia Supreme Court rules petition signatures are public records

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September 28, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled on September 23, 2010, that a county clerk must release petition signatures to the public[1].

All five justices voted unanimously to find that petition signatures filed with a public body are subject to disclosure under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The Shepherdstown Observer sued the Jefferson County County Clerk in order to gain access to petitions that attempted to qualify a zoning referendum in Jefferson County in 2009[1].

Justice Menis Ketchum, who wrote the opinion for the court, said that petition signatures are subject to public disclosure, "even though the writing was not prepared by, on behalf of, or at the request of, the public body." The opinion issued by the Justices also cited a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that considered petition signatures as public records in Washington State[1].

The ruling reverses a circuit court ruling denying the Shepherdstown Observer access to petition records in 2009[1].

  • CLICK HERE for a copy of the court's official ruling.

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