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SCOTUS Rules Petiton Signatures Are Public Record 780

Posted by kdawson
from the stand-behind-your-john-hancock dept.
Reader SheeEttin reminds us that back in October, the Supreme Court accepted a case testing whether or not petition signers' names could be kept anonymous. (The premise was that the act of signing a petition is covered by free speech, and thus signers are entitled to anonymity, especially to protect them from harassment.) Now the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record. "By a strong majority Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a setback for opponents of gay marriage who wanted to keep their identities secret. The justices favored transparency over privacy in a case testing whether signing a petition is a public act. The case began with a bill that the Washington state legislature passed in 2009, expanding the state's domestic partnership law. The new referendum was known as 'everything but marriage' for the enhanced rights it gave same-sex couples. People who opposed the bill gathered 120,000 signatures for a ballot measure asking voters to repeal it. That measure eventually reached Washington voters, who upheld 'everything but marriage.' Those who signed the repeal petition feared that they would be harassed if their names became public, so they went to court challenging Washington's Public Records Act. They argued that signing a petition is speech that is protected from disclosure. But in Thursday's 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed. 'Such disclosure does not, as a general matter, violate the first amendment,' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court."
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SCOTUS Rules Petiton Signatures Are Public Record

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:27PM (#32692028) Homepage

    ...if you feel about something so strongly that you are willing to sign a petition about it, you shouldn't be hiding your name. Stop being a coward, and own up to your opinions/decisions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "own up to your opinions/decisions"??? how very un-American of you!

      • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:46PM (#32692412)
        I know you're being sarcastic, but it's disgusting how these people are afraid of how others might perceive them, when in fact going 'on record' with dangerous opinions is the very foundation of civic society in the United States. The founders signed their own death warrants with the words "[...] we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." How these cowards could learn from their example.
        • by jimbolauski (882977) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:03PM (#32692770) Journal
          They need to apply the law to all parts of the government, all information regarding our government should be public unless it is classified. No more meetings behind closed doors hiding the deceit from the public. If our representatives knew that their actions were being recorded the ethics of our representatives would go through the roof.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I agree wholeheartedly. FOIA requests shouldn't even be necessary. There are so many government data sets--statistics, budgets, reports-- that could be and should be released to the public automatically online, but it's important to the civil servants and the elected officials both to do as much business in dark alleys as possible. Who knows what the public might demand if the information were available to hold governments at all levels accountable?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            If our representatives knew that their actions were being recorded the ethics of our representatives would go through the roof.

            This was the gist of the ruling. The initiative process turns ordinary citizens into citizenlegislators. Although, in general, citizens' political activities are private (vis. voting), when acting as representatives of the public (i.e., as legislators), the presumption of privacy is waived. In addition, the presumption of privacy would have made validation of signatures much mor

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by davidsinn (1438403)

      I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

      • by PPH (736903) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:37PM (#32692220)
        In this case, the big fear is about being outed. The harassment isn't going to come from the gay community. It's what some signers wil have to deal with in their own community when their boy toy spots their name on the petition.
        • by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:43PM (#32693472) Journal

          Wait, I don't follow. Why would a closeted gay sign a petition against gay marriage if no one could verify that he'd done it? I mean, I can see why a closeted gay would sign such a petition if the names were going to go public. If anything, the closeted gay would want the names to go public as evidence that he's not a gay sympathizer.

          This is not about gays not wanting to be outed as gays. This is about bigots not wanting to be outed as bigots.

        • Dual Edges (Score:5, Interesting)

          by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@NOSpaM.trashmail.net> on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:50PM (#32693578) Homepage Journal

          I live in the Seattle area. Among my hobbies and avocations are community theater and gay rights, even though I am straight. I am for same sex marriage (actually, I'm for getting government getting out of the business of licensing marriage and getting religion out of the business of defining it), I've performed them, gratis. However, I have a hard time with this. The more vocal of the gay community were trying to bully state voters who were opposed to a bill that would provide almost all the benefits of marriage to gay couples.

          I routinely sign petitions that, even if I disagree with the premise, I believe deserves a fair airing in public. As a result of this action, I had a minor break with some of my gay friends who were very angry and wanted the names of all the signers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

        It doesn't even have to be unpopular if the issue is one where those who oppose your position are willing to use intimidation tactics (which is the case with this petition). It will be interesting to see how those who went to court to get the names on this position react when it is a petition favoring one of their causes that receives this treatment. The interesting thing about this case is that before this particular petition, the state had found that these petitions did not fall under the Public records A

        • by flitty (981864) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:43PM (#32693476)
          Intimidation/threats are against the law. Prosecute that. Whenever someone argues that we should ban/stop something because possibly one day it might be used to commit a crime, you've lost. Same goes for Torrents, Guns, books, video games, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          As we know the people who signed this petition are very concerned with the rights of other to go about their lives free of harassment... oh right.
          You lose.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RomulusNR (29439)

          before this particular petition, the state had found that these petitions did not fall under the Public records Act.

          When was this? What was the petition number?

          So, the people who signed this petition had reason to believe that their identities would not become general knowledge.

          Sure, if you ignore the fact that they are signing them in public places, in broad daylight, in plain view of the general public, on a piece of paper left on a table for the next few hours, which will also be seen by as many as 30 or

      • by causality (777677) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:43PM (#32692366)

        I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

        In a case like this, anonymity is not a protection for cowards. It's a protection from cowards. There are few things more cowardly and insecure than hating someone and wishing to harm them because they do not believe as you do.

        • by caturday (1197847) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:57PM (#32692646)
          Not in this specific example. The gay community isn't exactly going out of its way to violently oppress those who oppose it, while the other side can't say the same. In fact, I'd be surprised if this were anything more than the traditional belief that "since they should fear retribution from me, I should fear equivalent retribution from them." It's a pretty common belief among modern social conservatives.
          • by BZ (40346) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:27PM (#32693186)

            > The gay community isn't exactly going out of its way to violently oppress those who oppose
            > it, while the other side can't say the same.

            That depends on where you live and how you define "gay community". In California during the Proposition 8 debates and right after its passage there was quite a number of rather ugly incidents.

            http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Dec08/Art_Dec08_09.html [christianexaminer.com] lists a few; I'm not sure how you can view spray-painting buildings belonging to particular religious groups, punching your neighbors in the face, putting up "bigots live here" signage, etc as something other than "violent oppression". Of course you may be affected by your dislike for the targets of said oppression, but consider how we would view people spray-painting signs saying "Jews live here", say?

            Now clearly only a small fraction of the "gay community" is involved in such acts. On the other hand, only a small fraction of opponents of gay marriage, say, is involved in violent acts. Neither is acceptable, and both are violent oppression in any meaningful sense of the word.

            All of which comes down to the fact that any group that feels like it's in their power (either due to being a majority group or due to special protections from the government like the aristocracy in medieval Europe) will tend to violently oppress people it doesn't like. I wish it weren't so, but history and current events suggest that it is. What we should strive for is minimizing such incidents as much as we can, and NOT through making people shut up and conform.

        • None of that matters. The fact is, the signatures on any petition should be made available for public scrutiny and so they can be verified. I was part of a campaign that stopped a petition in my home state when we caught them doing a lot of underhanded things that the local bureaucrats turned a blind eye too.

          And, on the reverse end, I had a petition I was an active member of have the same thing happen to it (we won though because we weren't dirty) but it's nice when your opposite looks at it and has to concede to the fact that you did indeed get enough legitimate signatures.

          I have to be honest, as someone who has worked as a political activist and had everything from death threats to vandalism occur, I don't want to work with people who aren't willing to do the same. If a particular belief isn't worth taking grief from cowards, it's not that important to you. Stand up for what you believe or sit down, shut up and play the part of a domesticated animal. People who only get involved when it's safe are just as cowardly as the haters and will ultimately get their just deserts.

      • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:29PM (#32693214)

        however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

        History has also shown that sometimes in order to enact a major change some people have to get dead or injured. During the American Revolution, people didn't try to remain anonymous. John Hancock famously signed his huge ass signature on the Declaration of Independence because he WANTED it to be known that he supported it. These men knew that this document meant that they very well might be swinging at the end of the gallows, but the cause was still worth it.

        • by ifdef (450739) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:46PM (#32693540)

          I agree.

          I think I'm missing something here in this discussion. Signing a petition is a way of saying that *I* support this, it's a way of taking a public stand on the issue. That's why you sign your *name*, instead of ticking a box anonymously. That's also why petitions are, at least in theory, taken seriously -- it's not an anonymous mob who support the petition, it's a bunch of specific people who are willing to put their names on record.

    • Well then, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) * <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:32PM (#32692116) Homepage Journal
      Shouldn't the same be true about voting?
      • by Pojut (1027544)

        I personally think so, but I would be willing to be a large portion of voters wouldn't be comfortable with that...which, if true, is freakin' hilarious.

      • Re:Well then, (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nadaka (224565) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:40PM (#32692298)

        The argument against disclosure of personally identifiable voting records is that disclosing the vote record would allow a party to verify that a paid shill voted the way they were asked to.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          Which, incidentally, can be a problem with petition drives too. Part of the verification process for a petition can involve contacting signatories and asking them why they signed - if the answer is "Some guy paid me 5 bucks" or "What petition?", smell a rat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bmo (77928)

        It's called Caucusing.

        And it's a form of voting used in the US. The most famous is the Iowa Caucuses.

        There is no clause in the US Constitution saying that voting should be public or private or even how votes should be counted. That's left up to the state election commissions.

        --
        BMO

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ispeters (621097)

        You don't need a public record that person A voted for candidate 1 to be able to verify the vote, so I think the answer to your question is "no".

        To verify a vote, you need a few things:

        1. Proof that all who voted were eligible,
        2. A count of all voters who voted,
        3. A count of all ballots cast,
        4. Some system to ensure that the ballots that are counted are the same ballots that were cast, and
        5. A mechanism for independent verification of the final tally of all ballots.

        Having 1 means that each of the votes should count. Ha

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bit9 (1702770)

        That's one of the stupidest ideas I've heard in a while. How easily people seem to forget the reasons [wikipedia.org] why we have a secret ballot [wikipedia.org] in the first place. Governments invariably tend toward corruption, which is something the founders understood quite well. Go back and read the Declaration of Independence.

        The problem with making people's voting records public is that it opens the door for a corrupt government, or even just an angry mob, to influence election results by intimidation and reprisals. Go read George O

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mea37 (1201159)

        No.

        Voting is a duty and is critical to the functioning of a representative government. It is a special case where freedom from outside influence needs special protection.

        Signing a petition is a choice; if you want to have your voice heard in that way, you choose to do so.

        The purpose of a petition is to show a threshold level of support for an issue before bothering to hold a vote. If you can't come up with X signatures from people who are willing to stand by their belief, then you don't have that threshol

    • My personal opinion is that a petition should be independently verifiable as to its validity (to make sure there is no petition stuffing going on), and the only way to do that is to make signatory information available to those independent verifiers - and anyone should be able to be an independent verifier.

      Otherwise the petition isn't worth anything.
    • by oldhack (1037484) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:34PM (#32692148)
      True. I mean, the whole point of adding your name to a petition is, well, adding your name. Petition without names aren't worth the "paper" it's written on, like those stupid email petition spam.
    • by Kymermosst (33885)

      s/sign a petition about/vote for/

      Hmm, makes a difference?

    • by causality (777677)

      ...if you feel about something so strongly that you are willing to sign a petition about it, you shouldn't be hiding your name. Stop being a coward, and own up to your opinions/decisions.

      Ever heard of the secret ballot? There are some very good reasons why we have one. It was created as a response to the coercion and intimidation that went on before one's suffrage could be exercised anonymously. It makes a good analogy for this petition. I'll add that "coward" is a judgment against the character of a person you have never met. Having described that, I feel no need to respond to it or the emotional nature behind it. Instead, I'd like to ask you a factual question.

      If the signatures r

      • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:45PM (#32692408) Homepage

        Ever heard of the secret ballot? There are some very good reasons why we have one. It was created as a response to the coercion and intimidation that went on before one's suffrage could be exercised anonymously. It makes a good analogy for this petition. I'll add that "coward" is a judgment against the character of a person you have never met. Having described that, I feel no need to respond to it or the emotional nature behind it. Instead, I'd like to ask you a factual question.

        I view signing a petition as serving the same purpose as holding up a picket sign.

        If the signatures remain anonymous, the signers have a measure of protection against harassment. Someone gains from that scenario and I can't think of anything it does to harm anyone else. The list of signatures can still be checked to make sure there are no duplicates etc.; the list and whether there are duplicates is just not a matter of public record.

        And if I had four wheels, I'd be a wagon.

        If the signatures are published publically, who gains or who benefits from this? For the opponents of the petition who did not wish to sign it, does it enhance their lives or further their cause in any way to know that John Smith from another city signed this petition? What good or useful purpose does it serve? Does that purpose outweigh the very real possibility of harassment?

        Bottom line: if you feel strongly enough about something to declare your support for it with a fucking signature, you should be man (or woman) enough to own up to it and deal with whatever consequences that may include. If you don't want people to know you feel a certain way about something, or if you fear retribution for your opinion, then you should just shut up and not express it.

        Just my opinion, YMMV, etc.

      • by radtea (464814) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:50PM (#32692504)

        It makes a good analogy for this petition.

        Except for the part where there is an independent verification body that certifies election results, and where voting elects people the positions of power while petition signing is part of the nominally open and public process of political debate.

        So yeah, other that that, the secret ballot is a great analogy for this petition. But including that, the secret ballot is such a terrible analogy for this petition that it's incredible anyone would bring it up if they have any clue whatsoever as to how secret ballots actually work, and how much effort is made to verify that people in secret ballot situations don't vote twice, and their identity matches who they say they are, and they are actually legally allowed to vote.

        For all we know the names on this petition are "Donald Duck" repeated 100,000 times, or the names of closet gays (also known as Bible Believing Christians) and their minor children.

        Publishing the names serves the good and useful purpose of validating that the signers are who they say they are, and that they are adults living in the State of Washington, as opposed to shills from out of state, minors, or fictional characters. Anyone who wants their voice to be taken seriously in public debate--which is what this petition is part of--would be strongly in favour of having their name known.

      • by sjames (1099) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:54PM (#32692590) Homepage

        Ballots themselves are a matter of public record, it's just the identity of the person who filled it out that is secret.

        A petition is quite a different thing and serves a different purpose. If the names on it cannot be verified, there's nothing to say that the people represented actually signed it.

        The people who signed the petition wish to strongly curtail the legal rights of other people but want to do so anonymously? No good can come of that!

      • by dave562 (969951) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:14PM (#32692952) Journal

        Does that purpose outweigh the very real possibility of harassment?

        Harassment builds character. As other people have stated, if a person feels strongly enough to go on the record in support of something, they should do so knowing that at some point they may have to actually stand up for their beliefs. As a country we seem to spend a lot of time protecting ourselves from each other. We constantly turn to third parties, rather than dealing directly with each other. At some point, everyone has to drum up the courage to look another human being in the eye and say, "You can take your ignorance and go fuck yourself."

        The whole point of petitions and voting and change revolves around standing up for yourself or others. It involves doing what you believe in. Standing up for a belief often times bring grief, especially when that belief lies far enough outside of the mainstream. Change often times hurt. The more extreme the change, the more likely there will be negative reprocussions.

        In response to your questions about what good public disclosure serves, it serves the purpose of shining light on a cause. It shows the rest of society just how many people are willing to stand up for their beliefs. As Ghandi said, "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. THEN THEY FIGHT YOU. Then you win." There are plenty of laws on the books to deal with harassment. Harassment may be effective for limited times in certain circumstances. In the long run, the harassers will get theirs.

        Harassment sucks. I'm not trying to minimize that fact. As a human being, you can't hide behind anonyminity. You have to face your harassers and overcome them. Often times the best way to do it involves simply ignoring them. "Sticks and stones..." and all that. Communities form for reasons. A sad fact of human beings seems to be that we will never always get along with everyone else. There will always be division and strife. Band together with those who are of like mind.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:40PM (#32692286) Journal
      That's Un-American! I deserve the right to petition for laws restricting other people's behavior without any risk of being called to account for having done so!

      This country was founded by people who knew that the right to oppress people they didn't like was a right worth crossing the ocean and living in ass-end of the earth for! Who are some activist judges to deny our puritan heritage?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhath (637240)
      I agree that the names on a petition should be made public. But when it results in death threats and other forms of harassment [nytimes.com] there needs to be vigorous law enforcement to avoid political action by intimidation (or worse).
  • I'm torn on this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davidsinn (1438403) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:28PM (#32692038)

    Signing a petition is very much like grabbing a sign and picketing. On the flip side it is similar to casting a ballot. I don't know which side to agree with on this one.

    • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:33PM (#32692138)

      I think the best way to imagine this is to contemplate the consequences of anonymous petitions. Without the signatures and names being public record, I could pretty much create a petition for anything with any number of signatures you can imagine. With ballot box voting, we've at least done some due diligence on the qualifications of those who get to drop ballots into the box, even if their choices are anonymous, their identities are not.

      • We need a mechanism to allow residents to vote for polls exactly once. Once it gets a certain number of votes, it goes on the general ballot.

    • I suppose it would depend on the case. It would make sense to me that a particular petition should be allowed anonymity. There's no doubt that petition signing can be enough cause for other's to respond in hate. For online petitions it would be easy to implement a check-box that allows each individual signer the right to remain anonymous as desired, which the court should uphold - afterall, if the checkbox is "opt-in" to remain anonymous it should be clear to the court what a person's intentions are.
  • Expected (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:31PM (#32692100) Journal

    I think it should be expected that if you sign a petition, the information is public. Otherwise, there would be no way to validate the petition. The constitution protects free speech, although not necessarily ANONYMOUS free speech. There are other avenues for anonymous free speech anyway.

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      There are other avenues for anonymous free speech anyway.

      Like 4chan. ::looks down::

      Crap, forgot to hit the "Post Anonymously" button....

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:32PM (#32692118)

    It balances things out.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:34PM (#32692156) Homepage Journal

    Cowards. If you are willing to put your name on a petition to get a measure on the ballot, then you should be willing to stand by your decision. Claiming you don't want your name to be revealed because your friends and neighbors might think differently about you is no excuse to try and hide from your decision.

    It's always funny when those who try to wrap themselves in the veils of freedom and democracy are generally the first ones who don't want others to know what they're up to.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      Do you feel the same way about anonymous voting? Or should people have to make public their stances on whom they voted for?

      What happens when someone signs a petition to legalize pot, for example, and their employer later fires them on the assumption that "they must be a pot head, stoner hippy"?

  • by RingDev (879105) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:35PM (#32692188) Homepage Journal

    The SCOTUS pointed out that there are exceptions, and the lawyer for the petitioners stated that he believes their case falls in the realm of those exceptions. So it'll go back to a lower court to determine if it within them.

    It strikes me as odd though. I thought the whole point of signing a petition was to publicly announce your support for the petition. I mean, if you don't feel strongly enough to write your name publicly, why not just write Mickey Mouse? And hell, if there is going to be no public scrutiny of who is brave enough to actually back the petition, what's to keep the petitioner from just writing Mickey Mouse 120,000 times.

    There SHOULD be an element of risk to signing a petition. You have to be willing to put your name on the line, literally. That includes showing support for the issue, and dealing with people who may disagree with you.

    -Rick

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:48PM (#32692464) Homepage

      I mean, if you don't feel strongly enough to write your name publicly, why not just write Mickey Mouse? And hell, if there is going to be no public scrutiny of who is brave enough to actually back the petition, what's to keep the petitioner from just writing Mickey Mouse 120,000 times?

      Walt Disney's legal department?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wireless Joe (604314)
      The lawyer's assertion that the petition signers are at risk of harm or retribution is ridiculous. The list of financial contributors to the initiative has been public for quite some time, and as far as I know, none of them have been the victim of anything beyond boycott threats, which are not illegal.
  • Okay, so petition signatures are public record? How about henceforth Congress is only permitted to pass legislation by roll call?

    Government of the who by the huh for the what-now?

  • I really don't see the "keep our names secret!" argument at all. If they feel the need to impose their morals upon other people, they should not expect to be able to do so from safe anonymity.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      Not everything on a petition has a moral component to it. What if there's a petition calling for a reduction in prison time for non-violent offenders? It doesn't pass, but now the cops have a list of people to "check up on" to see if they're drug users or visit prostitutes? Yes, that's somewhat of a far-fetched example, but it's exactly the kind of behavior that requires anonymous voting. I fail to see how anonymous petition signing is any different.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by characterZer0 (138196)

      Secret ballot is how we impose our morals upon others anonymously.

      The issue with petitions it that it would be prohibitively expensive to create a system to submit petitions for anonymous votes exactly one time per eligible voter. It is not anonymous because it cannot be validated if it is.

      Please take your "they are imposing their morals" rhetoric somewhere else.

  • There is a plus side to this: people will have to get serious about what they wish to get involved in. I'm queer identified but there are times when people thing the best thing they can do is just make a signature for a cause, without actually going out and supporting a cause.

    Mind you, if you don't have to share your Vote with the general public, these details should probably be kept from their eyes as well. There are people who will harm you, and there is always the chance the Government would put you on a

  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:37PM (#32692226)
    I have a question then. Since the VOTE is a public action too, does this ruling means that voting signatures should be public too? And don't get me wrong, but i really want to know who voted for who....
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alex Belits (437) *

      Voting is government-originated action that determines the opinion of the public on a particular subject or candidate for public office. It is ordinary, as the voting is a mandatory (and usually the only) way to perform some functions of the political system. There are whole systems (sometimes quite complex and only viable if implemented at the scale of the whole society) to ensure that votes can be counted without revealing individual voters' choices.

      Petition is an extraordinary action, it is originated by

    • by The Breeze (140484) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:25PM (#32693136) Homepage

      Actually, the LOGS of who voted - not what they voted for - ARE public record. I can tell which elections you voted in; it's public record that you voted - just not who you voted FOR.

      A vote is a decision. A petition signature is a public, open attempt to submit an issue to the voters.

      Petition signatures need to be public. The number one electoral fraud in this country is falsification of petiition signatures. Hotly contested races will hire outside firms to verify petition signatures on a routine basis, and this is necessary in any adversarial system.

      Usually only a small number - 1-5% of registered voters - is required to put a measure or candidate on the ballot, which then leads to a secret vote.

      Democracy has risks. If there's any issue that can't muster between one and five percent of people willing to take a public stand on an issue than we're already doomed.

      Also, signing a petition is NOT necessarily an endorsement of an issue or candidate. It is merely a declaration that a person feels an issue is worthy of a vote. It usually - but not always - indicates a signer supports an issue. I have signed petitions for candidates who I did not support simply because the candidate I DID support was already on the ballot but I thought the opposing candidate had a right to be heard.

  • The petition process is the first step in the making of laws. Everything about the making of laws, from petition to enforceable law, should be public. Today a minority that claims oppression seeks to use the law to hide its political activity from public view. However, tomorrow it may be a powerful minority--like a financial or military interest that may want to hide its activity from public view. Transparency is best.

    If somebody is trying to make a law that infringes upon my freedom, I want to know who

  • Harassment? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:50PM (#32692522)

    Or maybe the resistance to releasing the names is that most of them are fake anyway, so this "overwhelming" number of concerned citizens is really just a red herring anyway.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:56PM (#32692626) Homepage
    It turned out that the scientists whose names were on the petition disagreed with the petition. (It was against global warming.)

    Voting has the identity verified, that how they get away with anonymity. As petitions do not and can not be verified by a trusted source, they need to be public.

  • Well duh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:57PM (#32692652)

    If I go into a voting booth, I close a curtain and nobody's looking over my shoulder.

    If I sign a petition, I can see the names and addresses of everyone who signed the petition before me (at least the ones on the same page I'm currently signing). And after I sign it, I know the next guy, or the signature gatherer, can read what I just wrote.

    That's a pretty clear difference in expectation of privacy if you ask me.

  • Irony (Score:4, Funny)

    by Aesculapius (147375) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:01PM (#32692738)

    It's a magical time when those who would speak out against same sex marriage have feel the need to hide from the public.

    Irony can be fun!

  • by butlerm (3112) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:31PM (#32693242)

    Now the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record.

    The Court decided no such thing. What the Court did rule was that a law that made them part of the public record did not violate the First Amendment. Whether petition signatures are actually part of the public record is up to the states.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:33PM (#32694268) Homepage Journal

    Isn't it kind of obvious that the whole point of signing a petition and printing your name (and probably address as well), that you are formally and non-anonymously declaring that you want something?

    With anonymity, what is left of the very idea of petition? Nothing; you might as well get rid of the signatures, names and addresses altogether, replace the lines with a grid of boxes, and say at the top, "Check off a box if you want ___" and then give a sheet full of Xs written with different pens in different styles to your government representative to totally impress them with how passionately their constituents feel about something.

2.4 statute miles of surgical tubing at Yale U. = 1 I.V.League

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