October 14, 2009
JUDGE ORDERS SAM REED TO PROTECT CITIZENS' PRIVACY
Speaking for 10 minutes from the bench, Judge Hicks talked about the privacy protections of the U.S. Constitution but added "Our state Constitution affords us more privacy than the federal." He explained the importance of protecting these citizens until the federal case resolves itself. But Judge Hicks went on to say that even if the federal court overturns Federal District Court Judge Benjamin Settle's recent ruling, no personal information will be released until Judge Hicks makes his own determination.
From 1912 until 2006, citizens exercising their political free speech rights by affixing their names, signatures, and home addresses on ballot measure petitions in Washington were protected. Every Secretary of State, other than this one, protected citizens' privacy.
In 1973, then Secretary of State Lud Kramer was sued by a state senator for refusing to turn over the names, signatures, and home addresses of citizens who signed petitions to cap politicians' pay (Chaney v Kramer). SOS Kramer made clear the office's longstanding practice, supported by a 1938 & 1956 Attorneys General opinion, was to not turn them over -- "It has been my policy not to release the names of citizens signing initiative or referendum petitions. ... the release of these signatures has no legal value, but could have deep political ramifications to those signing. I will not violate public trust.".
He went further by stating that the Public Records Act I-276, passed the previous year, required him to redact that personal information (As OSOS official Don Whiting wrote to the state senator: "Section 26 of Chapter 1, Laws of 1973 (Initiative 276) provides that 'to the extent required to prevent an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, an agency shall delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes any public record.' It is our belief that the release of the names and addresses of persons in Thurston County who have signed Initiative 282 would constitute such an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy").
Two AG opinions, two Thurston county judges, a federal judge, and every other Secretary of State all agree -- protect citizens' privacy.
But according to Sam Reed, all of them are wrong and only he is right.
Today's lawsuit asked the state court to try to rein him in.
He's violating the U.S. Constitution (chilling of speech), the Washington state Constitution (government laws, rules, and policies can only facilitate the initiative process, this frustrates it) and various state laws that protect citizens' privacy.
At the bargain price of $1500, Secretary Reed is selling to Bryan Wahl, a for-profit consultant and powerful lobbyist, over three million names, signatures, and home addresses of citizens who've signed 11 tax initiatives since 2000. Under Sam Reed's anything-goes policy, commercial use and re-selling of the list, in whole or in part, is not prohibited. Sign a property tax initiative and your name gets sold to real estate agents, sign a no-new-gas-tax initiative, get hit up for a Chevron credit card, sign a lower-car-tab initiative, receive a phone call from your local car dealer. Thanks to Judge Hicks decision today granting a temporary restraining order, millions of Washingtonian's very personal identifiers will not be sold on the open market. These digital copies of our signatures will not be copied and sold and resold over and over again all over the world. Secretary Reed is facilitating commercial exploitation and identity theft.
Taxpayers are being forced to subsidize Sam Reed's refusal to respect the U.S. Constitution, the Washington state Constitution, and citizens' personal privacy.
Posted by Tim Eyman at October 14, 2009
10:19 PM | Email This
So what happened in the Chaney v. Ludlow case? Was it resolved in the superior court, or did it get appealed to the court of appeals or supreme court? I didn't find a reported appellate decision.
I view a decision to sign an initiative or referendum in the same manner as a decision on how to vote. My ballot choices are private, and the same thing should apply to citizens who exercise their voting rights by signing a petition.
And it should not matter whether the topic of the initiative or referendum is something highly controversial or comparatively benign. Privacy is privacy.
2. ..What Pope said. And for those who want names for the express purpose of harassing people (you know who you are), there is no legal right to harass people.
I agree with AG McKenna and SoS Reed. When citizens put legislation on the ballot, they are acting in the place of legislators. We don't want the legislative process conducted secretly in this state and we shouldn't start now.
Conservatives who believe in open government should oppose efforts to hide this information.
For 95 years, all Secretaries of State, other than this one, maintained the personal privacy of the signers' personal identifiers.
After the Public Records Act I-276 in 1972, all Secretaries of State, other than this one, looked at that law and recognized that it REQUIRED personal information be removed.
Only in 2006 did Sam Reed arbitrarily and capriciously reverse that 95 year policy and practice. Such a radical change was done without a new rule, which requires public note, public hearings, public input. None of that occurred. He changed the policy AND REPEATEDLY CLAIMED THAT THIS IS THE WAY IT'S ALWAYS BEEN DONE.
No one questioned that claim until now.
Now we've learned that in 1973 under then Secretary of State Lud Kramer (guess who was Asst Sec of State to Lud Kramer? Sam Reed) there was a lawsuit over this specific issue. Following the passage of the Public Records Act I-276 in 1972, the Secretary of State's office in 1973 refused to turn over the names, signatures, and home addresses of the 699,000 citizens who signed Initiative 282, sponsored by Lynnwood furniture salesman Bruce Helm, which capped legislators' salaries. The initiative was prompted by the Legislature's midnight vote on the last day of the legislative session for a massive pay raise for themselves in the midst of national wage-and-price controls.
A lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court (Chaney v. Kramer, Cause No. 48733) where the plaintiff sought to obtain the names, signatures, and home addresses of the citizens who signed petitions for I-282. The Secretary of State defended its position citing language in the Public Records Act that says "an agency shall delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes any public record" (Section 26 of Chapter 1, Laws of 1973 (Initiative Measure No. 276)" and further argued that to release this personal information would chill citizens' willingness to participate in the political process. Judge Hewitt A. Henry agreed with the Secretary of State. Despite the resources, the head of the Democrat party, Neale Chaney, chose not to appeal. The personal information on that heroic 699,000 citizens who signed those politician-salary-capping petitions were protected from inevitable political retaliation.
In a public release in 1973, Lud Kramer explained: "It has been my policy not to release the names of citizens signing initiative and referendum petitions. As far as I'm concerned petitions ... are being held in trust by this office. Furthermore, the release of these signatures have no legal value, but could have deep political ramifications to those signing. I will not violate public trust."
The Secretary of State's practice of not turning over personal information on petitions has been maintained for 95 years, including during the tenure of Lud Kramer, Bruce Chapman, the 20 years of Ralph Munro, and the first six years of Sam Reed.
The citizens of Washington deserve to have their privacy protected, as they have for 95 years under every other Secretary of State except this one.
5. This action done by the SOS is normal actions that take place when progressives/liberals/socialists gain power. They have a pathological need to supress those of us real Americans who disagree with thier lust for total power. Keep your powder dry.
6. These digital copies of our signatures will not be copied and sold and resold over and over again all over the world. Secretary Reed is facilitating commercial exploitation and identity theft.
That's NOT relevant in this case. If you're concerned about the signatures being made public for commercial exploitation, then FIX THAT PROBLEM. Do not release the home addresses online, or only make the petitions viewable to the public off-line. If some folks become the target of harassment, then prosecute the harassers.
What you are essentially doing is taking away the right to a transparent government. Funny, too, that now that the shoe is on the other foot, conservatives are all the more willing to side on keeping PUBLIC records hidden away. Signing a petition is NOT equivalent to voting, especially when you have plenty of petitions being hung around or passed around for public view.
Sheesh. All this holier-than-thou bullcrap from Eyman is amusing if it weren't about the devastate our state. Honestly, if I really wanted to live in Craphole, Mississippi, I would have moved there.
Richard Pope wrote: I view a decision to sign an initiative or referendum in the same manner as a decision on how to vote.
This is what then Secretary of State Lud Kramer wrote after the Thurston County court affirmed his citizen-privacy-first policy: "I consider the signing of an initiative or referendum petition a form of voting by the people."
Richard, you're in good company with that viewpoint. All Secretaries of State, other than this one, protected citizens' rights.
Lud Kramer's final words? "I will not violate public trust."
No doubt Lud Kramer rolled over in his grave when Sam Reed overturned 95 years of policy and practice in 2006 by violating citizens' privacy.
demo kid, say "it's not relevant" that citizens' personal identifiers can be sold on the open market. I think everyone should be disturbed that in this era of identity theft that Secretary of State Sam Reed is selling millions of names, SIGNATURES, and home addresses to a paid lobbyist (or anyone) so they can then be used, sold, resold for commercial purposes (or frankly for any political purpose). The citizens who signed these petitions did so to get that particular measure on the ballot, not to be hit up by a real estate agent, car dealer, or a credit card company.
It should be Sam Reed that fixes the problem THAT HE CREATED. And it he can do it NOW, without a court order, by simply going back to the 1912-2006 policy and practice which was to protect citizens' privacy.
And this isn't AGAINST the 1972 Public Records Act I-276, it's BECAUSE OF IT. Secretaries of State Lud Kramer, Bruce Chapman, and 20 years of Ralph Munro looked at the language of I-276 and said that it required that personal information be removed.
Don Whiting, Assistant Supervisor of Elections to Lud Kramer, wrote to the state senator requesting the names, signatures and home addresses for citizens signing petitions to cap politicians' salaries: "Section 26 of Chapter 1, Laws of 1973 (Initiative Measure No. 276) provides that 'an agency shall delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes any public record.' It is our belief that the release of the names and addresses of persons in Thurston County who have signed Initiative 282 would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy."
Lud Kramer wrote: "I will not violate public trust."
2 AG opinions, 2 Thurston County judges, a federal judge, and every other Secretary of State all favor citizens' privacy.
Sam Reed's 2006-2009 policy and practice of selling these personal identifiers to anyone is reprehensible. He should stop it - now.
9. So take out the signatures--the names should be a part of the public record.
Found you via the Hat Tip Michelle Malkin gave you in her book!!
I really like your blog!!
ps. Link Exchange?
Great post! I really like your blog!!
ps. Link Exchange?
12. Where was the cry for privacy when the voter lists were published on this website?
13. Nick Hand, Sam Reed's right hand man, is a weasel. Judging Sam Reed by the company he keeps, both are weasels.
14. Signing a petition is NOT equivalent to voting, especially when you have plenty of petitions being hung around or passed around for public view.
Signing a petition is no guarantee that the signee is a proponent of a particular referendum. They may be a fan of the Democratic process and have a "let the voter's decide" mentallity. Smells like Democracy to me, but yet making the names public would possibly open up a signee to any number of retribution and harrassment from the pink mafia at home and from a co-worker, Manager, CEO, HR, etc. in the workplace.
I say since a referendum is merely putting a particular issue on the ballot for voter's to give it an up or down vote, no way in hell should their privacy be violated. The state can decide the validity of the signers and in turn either approve or disapprove a measure from appearing on the voting ballot.
A great win for both States AND Citizen's rights. As the forefather's intended.
@8: No, Tim, you don't get it. If you actually cared about both transparency and privacy, you'd advocate that personal information shouldn't be able to be downloaded by commercial users, NOT that you should keep all names under lock and key.
But hey... conservatives only love the rules when they work in their favor.
@14: I say since a referendum is merely putting a particular issue on the ballot for voter's to give it an up or down vote, no way in hell should their privacy be violated. The state can decide the validity of the signers and in turn either approve or disapprove a measure from appearing on the voting ballot.
Shoe, meet other foot. So what you're saying is that it's great when Stefan does his amateur(ish) detective work with public records about the election when you have something to gain, but NOT good when citizens that are against this measure want to inspect signature sheets to assess their validity? That you can trust the state when the state is working in your favor?
These are NOT ballots, and should not be treated like they are. If you have a problem with private information being divulged to businesses or people being harassed, then deal with THOSE problems. Anything other than that is just dishonest.
Sheesh. It always amuses me when conservatives wallow in hypocrisy like this, but I'm having a hard time believing that you can reach THIS level of cognitive dissonance.
16. If you have a problem with private information being divulged to businesses or people being harassed, then deal with THOSE problems.~ Demokid
As I said, their signature is not anything other than their consent to let the democratic process take place. Therefore, they are simply agreeing that the issue should have a chance to be given an up or down by THE PEOPLE. A concept you regressive types eschew every time it doesn't suit your political bent. WWTFFD.....figure out what that means and then it'll give you the answer you've been looking for.
Look, it's not about what's morally right or wrong. Courts are here to determine what the law is.
The 9th District says that the law says to release signatures for Ref. 71. That ruling will certainly pertain to I-1033 as well.
If you want to change the law, change it, but there is no Constitutional right to signing government petitions in secret.
What will McKenna do now that the Washington Judiciary has ruled they are not subject to the same Public Disclosure they are subjecting citizens to?
R-71 signers should be withheld due to threats of violence against those who signed, as I personally sent links to McKenna's office where threats were made on blogs and in comments on my small local blog, even with name and city.
One of his assistants returned my email with "let's hope cooler heads prevail."
If this goes through, what makes either side think that threats of intimidation will not be made in the future to keep people from signing?
Forgotten in all the back and forth is that 'WE THE PEOPLE' ARE the government, they are representatives. We have every right to freely engage in placing initiatives on the balance if enough citizens support it.
I'll be curious to see what McKenna does now that the Judiciary has exempted themselves from the same Public Disclosure they mandate on us.
19. Look, it's not about what's morally right or wrong. Courts are here to determine what the law is.
With that shallow outlook, you also apparently also agree with the Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott decisions.
@16: As I said, their signature is not anything other than their consent to let the democratic process take place.
So then you agree that it ISN'T a secret ballot, and shouldn't be protected as such. Great! Nice to see that we're in agreement.
@17: R-71 signers should be withheld due to threats of violence against those who signed, as I personally sent links to McKenna's office where threats were made on blogs and in comments on my small local blog, even with name and city.
Again, irrelevant. Elected officials get threatened all the time as well for the positions they take, and we actually post their home addresses on official documents available to the public. If you get a serious threat, then call it into the police. If you're concerned about easily access to personal information, work to get the street address blocked or keep the information off-line.
And dude, what the hell did you expect by sending that info to the STATE attorney general? He doesn't really have time for crap like that.
@19: Hypocritical. Seems like you play the "strict constitutionalist" card only when it's convenient for you, eh?
21. Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?
demo kid, are you really that dense?
As for any one showing up at my door for anything other than a friendly visit or with the intent to cause me harm, I can give them .357 reasons to reconsider.
Still, you missed that this sets up ending citizen participation in government by removing our voice. From here out, threats or fear of intimidation will be used legally, thanks to McKenna, to deny petititions.
That means for your side too!
Hey Mr. Eyman...
Answer me this question.
Do you make copies of the petitions prior to handing them over to the Secretary of State?
Do you use the names gathered on the petitions to raise funds?
Do you mail persuasion pieces to names on the list?
To answer Timothy's questions: we don't
here's Mike Fagan's sworn declaration in our court case:
My responsibility in our group is to process, manage, count, and keep secure the petitions mailed to us. I take my role very seriously. That's what makes me so incensed that we received this email from the Secretary of State on September 28th:
I would assume that you yourself make email lists, solicitation lists, etc., with your petition sheets.
We do no such thing and I am deeply offended by the accusation. Nine of the 11 initiatives that are about to be released by Secretary Reed -- the ones we co-sponsored -- we did not make email lists, solicitation lists, and we did not even photocopy the petitions.
We respect the privacy of the citizens who sign these petitions.