Supreme Court: Washington Can Release Names of Ballot Signers

Washington – A near unanimous Supreme Court today ruled Washington state can release the names of the roughly 138,000 people who signed ballot petitions to overturn a same-sex domestic partnership law.

The court found the Washington Public Records Act covered the release of referendum signatures and the state has a responsibility to promote “transparency and accountability” in the electoral process. The high court said release of the names of petitions signers would help “root out fraud” and “ferret out” invalid signatures that could result from simple mistakes.

The lone dissenting justice was Clarence Thomas.

Religious conservatives had sought to keep the signatures secret because they feared retaliation from gay rights groups. The state had argued the Public Records Act required the release of those signing initiative and referenda petitions.

At the heart of the legal dispute is Referendum 71, which sought to repeal the “anything but marriage” domestic partnership law approved by the Legislature.