Is signing a petition a public or private act?

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by Mike Cate

KING5.com

Posted on April 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 29 at 1:02 PM

Is signing a petition a public or private act?  The U.S. Supreme is about to take up this question.  The case stems from last November's election when proponents of Referendum 71 requested access to the petitions that opponents had submitted to get the referendum on the ballot. 

As you recall, Referendum 71 was called the "everything but marriage act" because it gave domestic partnerships all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in Washington State. The legislature had passed the law and the governor signed it, but opponents circulated petitions to get the measure on the ballot so voters would have the final say.   

Ultimately Referendum 71 passed and now same sex couples and seniors can enter into relationships that mirror the legal reality of marriage.  But the question remains, should anybody -- your neighbor for instance -- be able to find out what petitions you have signed?  What expectation of privacy is there when you sign a petition in a public place, before a stranger where other are likely to see it?  On the other hand, is signing a petition like voting where you should be able to express your political opinion in private?

 Tell us what you think.

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