Joe Mathews -
The U.S. Supreme Court seems to think so. In voting 8-1 to block an appeals court ruling that would have released publicly the names of signers on petitions to qualify Washington's state Referendum 71 for the ballot, the court appears to be taking the position that the act of signing a direct democracy petition is akin to voting in an election. And in this country, voting is private.
Although the court hasn't made a final decision in the case, their decision to block the release of the signatures effectively gives a victory to supporters of the referendum. The signatures, if they are ever released, won't be released until after the November election -- when the impact will be something close to zero. The referendum in question, 71, is a ballot measure to reverse a new state law granting broader rights to domestic partners. Those supporters -- who are opponents of gay rights and the law -- say they want to protect those signers from criticsim and harassment. On the other side, gay rights supporters -- who are referendum opponents -- want to see the signatures precisely so they can challenge those who would deny rights to gay couples. Washington state officials are siding with the referendum opponents in this matter, on the argument that petitions to the government are, by their very nature, public documents.