Sunday, November 1, 2009

Privacy And Petitions

The question in Washington state about the privacy of signers of public referendum petitions is interesting and a valuable discussion to have. The question is whether the signatories of petition can be made public. The question of privacy has been raised because of the effort to publish the names of signatories to a referendum petition to prevent domestic partnership rights to same sex couples.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that publishing the names of the referendum supporters may violate protections of free speech. I make no claim to understand the esoteric legal issues this raises but I do understand the function of the referendum process. The function of public referendum is to circumvent the established legislative process. The referendum is a de facto piece of legislation and that means that signers are de facto legislators, similar to sponsors of legislation in a formal body. I can't support any democratic form of government in which there is any benefit in allowing anonymous legislators to introduce legislation to be introduced and passed.

The issue of safety is a concern. It would a tragedy if a petition signer was attacked because of their having signed a petition. But does that concern trump the principle of protecting the people from the tyranny of the majority. While the safety of the signers is a concern is it a greater concern than the protecting the rights of a minority of the people to be subjugated by the passing of the referendum. Sphere: Related Content

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