Campaigns/Elections

Supreme Court Upholds Disclosure of Petition Signers

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Today, in an 8-to-1 ruling, the Supreme Court said public disclosure of information about people who sign a petition to get an initiative on a state ballot does not, as a general matter, violate the First Amendment. The case was bought by backers of a Washington state initiative aimed at overturning a same-sex domestic partnership law, who feared they would be harassed if their support for the measure were revealed. The Court said the government's interest in maintaining transparency and rooting out fraud is sufficient to justify making the names of petition signers publicly available. Supporters of this particular initiative (and others that are especially apt to trigger harassment) can still make a First Amendment case for an exception to the general rule.

The lone dissenter was Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote:

Just as "[c]onfidence in the integrity of our electoral processes is essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy,"   so too is citizen participation in those processes, which necessarily entails political speech and association under the First Amendment. In my view, compelled disclosure of signed referendum and initiative petitions under the Washington Public Records Act (PRA)…severely burdens those rights and chills citizen participation in the referendum process. Given those burdens, I would hold that Washington's decision to subject all referendum petitions to public disclosure is unconstitutional because there will always be a less restrictive means by which Washington can vindicate its stated interest in preserving the integrity of its referendum process.

The Institute for Justice's amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs is here. I discussed the case in a column last April.

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  1. Thomas once again showing himself to be the best Justice.

    1. Yep. I’m finding more and more reasons to like him. He’s turning out to be quite the sleeper.

      1. I thought he was just an unqualified affirmative action Scalia lackey. All the lefty blogs say so.

        1. And the dumkopf never asks any questions! He can’t possibly be a serious jurist.

        2. Most serious law scholars I’ve read think it goes the other way, that Thomas has influenced Scalia much more than the other way around.

        3. They do? Front page post from Daily Kos on this ruling:

          “So, in summary: signatures are presumptively public, but signers can try to prove that as applied to them public disclosure requirements are more likely to yield harassment than necessary information. And Justices Scalia and Thomas are decidedly not the same person.”

          http://www.dailykos.com/storyo…..c,-But-…

      2. Thomas, a sleeper?

        Only if you’ve been alseep.

        For the most part, I think he’s one of the best the Court has seen in a long time…unless you’re a 13 year old girl hiding ibuprofen in your underwear. But Thomas got it right on a lot of important ones like Raich & Kelo.

        1. This meme is only tenable if you know either nothing about Thomas’ record or freedom.

          Or both.

          1. He’s better than the other eight, nowhere near as good as he should be.

            1. How so Pro? He’s a reliable Fourth Amendment nightmare for example. And his stuff on executive power would warm Louis XIV’s heart…

              1. He’s a reliable Fourth Amendment nightmare for example.

                Only if you don’t count cases like, say, Arizona v. Gant.

                He’s very good on the rights of the accused with the Sixth Amendment, like Ring v. Arizona or Apprendi v. New Jersey.

                See also Blakely v. Washington, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, United States v. Booker, Crawford v. Washington, etc.

                1. There’s a bit more to the 6th Amendment than requiring a jury to find certain things for sentencing John. How’s he on the right to counsel for example?

                  1. Of course there is. That why I included other Sixth Amendment cases in there, like the right to face your accuser (Melendez-Diaz, Crawford). The right to trial by jury and the Confrontation Clause have been the most contentious areas of recent Sixth Amendment case law. See Mark Chenoweth’s paper here, for example. There aren’t a ton of right to counsel cases, and Martinez v. California from 2000 was a unanimous decision. Montejo v. Lousiana is one recent case, where the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to counsel both came into play, and I assume that you would disagree with that decision.

                    I also included several Fourth Amendment cases.

                    And today here’s Justice Thomas authoring a 5-4 decision siding with a habeas petitioner.

              2. Oh, and Kyllo v. United States is another very pro-Fourth Amendment decision that Scalia authored and Thomas joined.

                But MNG is right, if you ignore all the pro-defendent Fourth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rulings that Justice Thomas has joined or written, why, he hardly ever rules for the defendant.

                1. That was a thorough beatdown. I doubt we will hear much more on this topic from MNG. He spend the rest of the afternoon licking his talking points.

                  1. I’d suggest anyone just go get a criminal law and procedure casebook. Read the cases. Note where Thomas fell in each case, and make up your minds for yourself…You can only bring Kylo up so many times when you keep reading the man’s overall awful record on search and seizure for example…

                2. I’m suprised Kylo wasn’t mentioned sooner. Didn’t Thomas share Scalia’s view to junk the “expectations of privacy” standard in the 4th context and replace it with the traditional trespass standard? I don’t know many who would think that would be a “pro-defendant” outcome if applied consistently.

                  1. How can you say that? Scalia said that your home is your home in Kylo. And the government can’t invade it even when it uses thermal imaging.

                    And if you think the “expectation of privacy” standard will protect your rights, you obviously haven’t ever read any of the automobile search cases.

                    1. An expectation of privacy can extend outside your home for one thing…

                    2. “An expectation of privacy can extend outside your home for one thing…”

                      What are you even talking about? The “expectation of privacy” standard has been used to basically destroy our right to privacy in our cars and also allow the police to search our garbage at the curb. I can’t think of a single case where the standard has been anything but a legal fiction used to justify police intrusion.

                    3. Here’s one:

                      Traffic stop not cause for vehicle search

                      It was 6-2, with Ginsberg and Stevens dissenting.

                    4. a nice thing about living in a state that acually has a right to PRIVACY (vs. the 4th amendment which never even mentions privacy) is that law enforcement is far more restricted in search and seizure… because… wait for it… WA residents HAVE a right to privacy.

                      WA cops can;t do :
                      1) DUI roadblocks
                      2) search garbage (w.o a warrant)
                      3) search vehicles incident to driver arrest (recent ruling)
                      4) and are more limited in curtilage etc. searches of residences
                      etc.etc. because our constitution (state of WA) has a right to privacy.

                      lets not pretend the federal constitution does. it doesn’t. it would be nice if it DID, but it doesn’t.

              3. Oh, and Thomas and Scalia were more pro-defendent in Oregon v. Ice, but the formalist coalition of the Sixth Amendment lost Ginsburg and Stevens while picking up Roberts.

                But MNG doesn’t know anything about Thomas’s record or freedom. Or both.

                1. I have been free for a long time, JT. Sadly, I think that those days are numbered, for both you and me. I can’t even get Scalia to drop that “New Professionalism” twaddle.

        2. I’m talking in terms of public perception. J sub understands.

          I know he doesn’t have the nail-biting glamor of the Kennedy swing vote or the polarizing effect of Scalia, but he is definitely coming into his own on the court as a more than competent and reliably consistent jurist who actually gives a damn about the Constitution.

          Of course, since he’s not a member of TEAMBLUE, his contributions will always be minimized, mocked and mischaracterized by the MSM.

          1. The “MSM”…How cute is that?

            1. Not nearly as cute as you Massah.

              1. You still find men cute JW? I thought after that whole Log Cabin Republicans fiasco you had changed your mind on that…

            2. MNG, what up man?

              Jeez, it’s like a breath of fresh air to read an argument between MNG and everybody.

              For old times sake, I’ll agree with MNG; in re the “MSM”. Go to any liberal website and look at the comments, you will see the same bitching about the “MSM”.

              Also there have been studies done showing that people of opposite political persuasion imagine bias against them in the same article.
              Here is one study.

              1. I just hate the acronym now. It’s so cutesy, look at me, I know political lingo: “the MSM!” Of course it’s a silly simplification (what the heck is the “Mainstream Media?” Fox? Mother Jones? ) and usually comes with a healthy does of paranoia (theres this stuff “they” don’t want us to know and aer keeping from us!).

                1. Amazing what happens when you proffer the same tired argument over and over…

              2. I speak more to the 1-inch deep level of analysis that you get from popular media sources, than ideological bias, but it’s still there.

                Do you have any expectation that a libertarian issue will be given fair play in the NYT or on CNN?

                1. That was to capitol l. MNG has entered his petulant 5 year old phase, so off to the bit-bin with him.

                2. I speak more to the 1-inch deep level of analysis that you get from popular media sources, than ideological bias, but it’s still there.

                  I think it is the nature of the beast of having news sources that are trying to reach the widest audiences, which as businesses is their ultimate goal. The entire audience’s intelligence is represented as a bell curve, and only focusing on the highest edge would lose a lot of viewers, so they aim low.

                  But, I think people with more curiosity and intellect will look further for information…an hopeful sign.

                  Do you have any expectation that a libertarian issue will be given fair play in the NYT or on CNN?

                  When it comes to matters of the pelvic region, and issues regarding freedom of religion; yes, I would expect a libertarian argument to at least not be looked at as insane. Ditto for gun control and economic issues in more right leaning sources.

                  In the end, I don’t believe that there is some monolithic “Mainstream Media” trying to hide information from the public. But, a group of rather savvy businesses that cater to certain population segments with lazy reporting, sensationalism, soundbites, and sometimes outright balderdash.

                  Also, there is a large public body out there that eats the shit up and asks for more.

                  1. In the end, I don’t believe that there is some monolithic “Mainstream Media” trying to hide information from the public. But, a group of rather savvy businesses that cater to certain population segments with lazy reporting, sensationalism, soundbites, and sometimes outright balderdash.

                    That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. You parse it out a bit more than I would, but I also think it’s naive to believe that political biases don’t play into editorial decisions.

                    ‘MSM’ is a shorthand notation for popular media sources, not a dog-whistle for conspiracy theory. I don’t think they are “hiding” information, but the herd mentality isn’t exactly subtle.

                    Is it a conscious business practice? Sure. I also believe that it’s a result of preconceived notions by the people in positions of decision-making within ABC, NBC, CNN, etc. They aren’t trying to think outside of the box too much and generally treat anything outside that box with derision and mockery.

              3. So when whites believe they are being disadvantaged in hiring decisions due to affirmative action(aka racial reasons) and non-whites also think they are being disadvantaged due to racial reasons, that means there is no racism in hiring decisions?

            3. How cute is that?

              You asking a question or making a statement?

  2. Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation’s homeland security chief said Friday.

    And, just in time, a precedent.

  3. Oh my dear god, these people will have to…have it known they signed a petition.

    I thought libertarians did not consider social pressure coercion?

    1. Anonymity in speech has long been enshrined in the US. It makes it a bit harder to round people up for their opinion.

      Perhaps voting choices should be public as well? How about yourself? Why post here under a pseudonym if you have nothing to hide?

      1. Perhaps voting choices should be public as well? How about yourself? Why post here under a pseudonym if you have nothing to hide

        If you read Scalia’s seperate concurrence, he basically says that we don’t have the right to the anonymous ballot. We voluntarily decided to make voting anonymous, but it hasn’t always been that way, and the Constitution doesn’t guarantee it.

        Not saying I agree with the sentiment, just that what you said was covered in the decision.

        1. It’s a reasonable argument. It took a long time for the Australian ballot to be adopted in the US. I think that the secret ballot is absolutely a good idea, but I can admit that there are decent arguments that the Constitution does not required it.

          1. I think that the secret ballot is absolutely a good idea, but I can admit that there are decent arguments that the Constitution does not required it.

            Yeah that’s how I see it to.

            1. And don’t EVEN think of trying to pass an amendment or something of REAL legislative value! We got a racket here and we don’t take kindly to muckrakers!

          2. I often wonder if it’s a good thing. I understand not wanting to be pressured, but that can happen before you even get to the polling station. I would like to be able to look up on the FEC’s database to see that my vote was recorded properly, especially when people talk about voter fraud, or misapplication of votes such as in FL in 2000.

            1. So would we.

              1. Please, by all means.

      2. I think the difference here, for me, is that signing a petition serves a different purpose either than voting or publishing in support or in opposition to a measure.

        Your vote? Private. Your voice in support? Can be anonymous.

        But when you sign a petition, what you are doing is telling your government “Enough of us feel strongly about this that we think you should at least put it on the ballot.”

        And in that case, I see no issue with *allowing* the names to be made public, as a general rule. I simply don’t.

        If you support something, but fear for your safety if you support it publicly, then your option is to withhold signature from the petition, but hope that enough people feel strongly about it that it gets on the ballot anyway, when you can cast your vote *anonymously*.

        1. If you support something, but fear for your safety if you support it publicly, then your option is to withhold signature from the petition, but hope that enough people feel strongly about it that it gets on the ballot anyway, when you can cast your vote *anonymously*.

          And I believe the court, in this decision, held that if you can point to specific threats, then the signers of the petition can remain anonymous.

          Here:

          I would demand strong evidence before concluding that an indirect and speculative chain of events imposes a substantial burden on speech. A statute “is not to be upset upon hypothetical and unreal possibilities, if it would be good upon the facts as they are.”

          And :

          Case-specific relief may be available when a State selectively applies a facially neutral petition disclosure rule in a manner that discriminates based on the content of referenda or the viewpoint of petition signers, or in the rare circumstance in which disclosure poses a reasonable probability of serious and widespread harassment that the State is unwilling or unable to control

      3. Well, there’s a difference between anonymously advocating and anonymously wielding the police powers of the state. Taking part in the petition process is clearly the latter as it is unequivocally part of the law-making process. If you’re willing to try to enforce your personal preferences on everyone else you damn well should have the courage to stand behind it with your name.

        As to secret ballots, they’re fine for election of candidates, but if you’re voting on the direct passage of a law that will subject everyone else to its enforcement, we ought to know who it is doing the subjecting. The idea of anonymously passing a law should be abhorrent. Libertarians ought to appreciate that.

        1. So, your “no” vote on a referendum, for example, to punish for life anyone placed on a sex offenders list (which Hit & Runners know can be for sexting or pissing outside) should be known to your neighbors? How would that play out at the next block party? “Hey everyone! Look who’s here! Our favorite child molester!”

          1. Uh, sooooooo? It’s your neighbors, fuck them.

      4. I’m curious as to what the libertarian argument is for this anonymity? No force or fraud is present…

        1. I would like to know too, MNG. Say, nice set of kneecaps you got there…shame if something happened to them after today’s vote. Right?

          1. Ah, the old “potential to trigger thuggery” argument.

            Be neat to apply to that to some pet conservative causes, eh?

            1. Whatever do you mean MNG? Onward Christian Soldiers!

              1. I feel your pain FOTF! It’s tough work keeping out undesirables!

            2. Pets???? Did you say pets????

        2. There may exist a minarchist argument for such, but even that should likely hold that the function of a government in such matters be properly limited to prosecuting material injustice, rather than in attempting to prevent it through the selective suppression of liberty.

          In other words, there is no logical standing for such guarantees of anonymity; the disclosure itself damages no party.

  4. I don’t see how the last line in the excerpt from the dissent can be gainsaid. The state can check the signatures for fraud without disclosing the names to the world. So it obviously sets a bad precedent. Having said that, how are the opponents to this referendum going to retaliate, paint your house in rainbow colors?

  5. I don’t see the big deal. You sign a document that’s being submitted to the government. It doesn’t include your social security number, credit card info, etc. You can find out the names of people that submitted money to support a cause. Why should we then protect people who may or may not have submitted money but did sign a form?

    1. You can also find out people’s voter registrations, party affiliations, etc. through public records. I think it needs to be a pretty compelling reason to say the government is allowed to keep something secret and “people might know that I supported a ballot initiative” doesn’t do it for me. I can appreciate Thomas’ “chilling” argument as the most compelling to be made in this case, but it doesn’t convince me.

    2. You can find out the names of people that submitted money to support a cause.

      Bzzt, not causes in general. The Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) says that you’re wrong.

      And it’s not the law of the land for causes that happen to make political arguments yet, and the ACLU and others object about making it so via the DISCLOSE Act.

      1. Fair enough. Still, forgive me if a save my rantings against the tyranny for other issues.

      2. There was also another case, which I’m too lazy to look up, where the Court held that campaign donations to a socialist party could be anonymous due to the threat of retaliation. Certainly signing a petition in support of a controversial referendum is the same situation. At least one guy in California lost his job for signing a pro-Prop 8 petition.

        1. Did he lose his job with the government who should be neutral or did he lose his private sector job to which I would say, “you have the right to freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean you are free from the consequences of that speech.” Government may not persecute you, but you can’t call your boss a fag and expect to be employed by him any longer.

          1. He had a (private sector) job in the theater, as a rule not a business thrilled with Prop 8. I’m a little reluctant to support firing otherwise capable employees based on pure politics, though.

            1. I’m a little reluctant to support firing otherwise capable employees based on pure politics, though.

              Why?

              I mean, if he’s in an at will employee, what does it matter?

              I know I am personally against it, but that’s kind of the point of at-will employment no?

              1. It matters because it’s a bad precedent. I don’t like the idea of hiring and firing people based on political beliefs which have no bearing on the job. (If the DNC didn’t want to hire a Republican, or vice versa, that’s another story.) I’m not saying there should be a law, just that it’s a bad idea.

            2. That’s impossible. Gays never discriminate. They are the most civil and respectful people ever.

    3. I actually agree with Thomas’ dissent, but for different reasons than he cites. I don’t think it “chills the referendum process” or “severely burdens” rights to political speech to expose petition signers. However, in my view, there’s no compelling reason to disseminate this information to the public. WA can verify signatures without public release, as Thomas points out.

      Disclosure of financial contributions to political or charitable causes is actually a public service, or at least a consumer service, in my view. I can make choices about with whom I’ll do business based on an organization’s or a corporation’s political contributions. And that’s the important distinction; it isn’t merely individual voters who are exposed by the public posting of political contributions. Knowing where a political entity’s money comes from also helps me judge the value of the cause (i.e. if something’s got a lot of union money behind it, it’s probably lousy).

      But because only individuals sign petitions, and getting an individual’s political beliefs without his/her permission doesn’t help me in any way (well, it helps me if my intent is to harass, judge, or market to the individual, but it doesn’t make me a better informed consumer or voter) I don’t see why I should ever have the right to see exactly what petitions my neighbors sign, just as I can’t see their ballots when I run into them down at the polling station.

      1. Knowing where a political entity’s money comes from also helps me judge the value of the cause (i.e. if something’s got a lot of union money behind it, it’s probably lousy).

        Seriously? Considering that corporate money to candidates is typically spread across the board and across parties, you’d have an easier time divining the future from chicken entrails than you would by looking at contributions and how that affected legislative votes.

        Here’s hoping you never contribute to a candidate that your boss hates.

  6. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this decision.

    On the one hand, I support the right of anonymous speech, on the other I don’t buy the chilling effect argument of unmasking petition signers for ballot initiatives.

    I also don’t buy the compelling interest in rooting out fraud argument — although I find the providing information to the electorate about who supports the petition argument the more persuasive one (but the court didn’t address this one too much since they bought into the fraud argument).

    This decision could have gone either way to me and I don’t think it would have bothered me. I’m curious to know what others think.

    1. I am like you not sure what to think. More than anything, it saddens me that the political culture is so full of thuggery that people would feel the need to remain anonymous.

      1. More than anything, it saddens me that the political culture is so full of thuggery that people would feel the need to remain anonymous.

        Yup.

        It’s quite normal to want anonymity to avoid repercussion from the state, but sad it’s sad that in this day and age people are afraid of their fellow citizens reaction to their political beliefs.

      2. It seems to me the only proper libertarian response is to outlaw the thuggery. Opposing something because of its “potential to trigger thuggery” would seem out of bounds…

        1. So you’re against the anonymous ballot? Or just against it being required?

          There is a distinction between saying that something is mandated because of a “potential to trigger thuggery” if the other policy is followed, and favoring one particular policy choice because it decreases the potential of thuggery but not arguing that your preferred choice is Constitutionally mandated.

          1. So you’re against the anonymous ballot?

            That wouldn’t surprise me. He’s in favor of Card Check. Aren’t you, MNG?

            1. You guys do know that the NLRA was passed officially because of its touted ability to thwart “potential violent industrial disruptions” don’t ya?

              On a host of issues libertarians tell us that the only real coercion is physical coercion, but it seems “potential” coercion is (sometimes!) enough, eh?

            2. sage
              I’m for card check. Of course, since union certification elections are very different than our political elections that really shows not much…

              1. Excellent answer, you can keep those kneecaps after all! For now anyway; we’re contrary like that!

      3. Thuggery? I don’t think people were worried about violence so much other people exercising their right not to associate with people with the wrong political views.

    2. Of course you can support anonymous speech and not have a problem with the decision. This is not about anonymous speech it’s about the anonymous use of state authority. Not being able to anonymously file a lawsuit against your neighbor does not impede your right to anonymous speech and this is no different in principle.

      1. Not being able to anonymously file a lawsuit against your neighbor does not impede your right to anonymous speech and this is no different in principle.

        Unless you genuinely believe that your neighbor will attack or kill you because of it.

        But I generally agree with your sentiment.

      2. What if the referendum is to get rid of a law?

        I too am sort of in limbo on this, but I think my default position is that the government shouldn’t be telling anybody anything they know about you. So I’m against it, until I think a little further on the subject.

  7. Anonymous speech/voting is one thing, signing your name to a petition is making a matter of public record. A petition is non-anonymous voting by it’s very nature. It’s personal advocacy, not flipping a lever behind a curtain.

    1. See what I said to MNG upthread buddy! I advocate in a less than friendly manner, and public records make it easier to find you, should you vote..ah, advocate…poorly.

      1. “Potential harm” makes the case of the total regulation of all human life he advocates. Don’t make his arguments for him.

        1. One of ’em gets it.

    2. How is this any different from contributing funds for a political campaign? Why should I have to make my support for issue X or candidate Y anyone’s business?

      How is that I should be able to anonymously post a scathing and nominally honest screed about an issue, but not be able to give money or sign a petition in support of a referendum to the opposition? That distinction makes absolutely no sense.

      Voting is as much a public record as is signing a petition and I would argue, far more important. Yet, we choose to keep this action anonymous.

      1. I’m not really going to go to the mattresses over the idea. I just don’t think it’s that big a deal, considering that any doddering judge can give any government agency the right to read every email you’ve sent in the past 10 years on the flimsiest of excuses.

        And voting is hardly anonymous, either. They check my driver’s license and address in a big print-out book when I vote in KY. A simple time notion would tell anyone how I voted.

        There are certain drawbacks to choosing engage in the political process; my beliefs would be different if it was an involuntary process.

        1. It looks like I’m about the only one here today that has a strong opinion on this matter.

          I’ve never fallen for the arguments that there should be distinctions among types of speech, for example, the distinction between political and commercial speech. I see no compelling reason to treat any manner of speech differently than another.

          In the instance of fraud, we give politicians a free pass to spew any lie they want, knowing full well that their lies aren’t actionable. But if a commercial entity commits fraud, people are on them like ugly on a Waxman, as they should.

          Speech is speech is speech. Anonymity should be opt-out and all speech should be treated the same, regardless of the medium, message or manner. If we had never started down the path of crafting distinctions, we wouldn’t have ever had to worry about situations like Citizens United.

          1. I think I’m just going down a certain path with my idea of privacy. Working around teenagers is doing it to me. They have responded to the increasing invasion of privacy with an attitude of openness. They seem to have come to an understanding of shame and secrecy that’s fairly rational to me.

            Like fraud or perjury or libel, it’s not the speech part that’s the problem, it’s the reaction to it and intent behind it. Without privacy, it ceases to be your responsibility to keep things private and forces the onus onto people who violate your person with their reactions.

            Privacy is more of a social etiquette than a right in this construction. For example, for as much stupid, wrong and inane shit that the loathsome worm Dan T. posts on this board, I’m too polite to use my librarian powers to find out his home address and rape him to death with a broom. Which would be wrong. I guess.

            1. We, however, are much more nihilistic in our philosophy. We’ll even give you a good faith discount to fit this Dan T., is it now, with the finest cement shoes and to make sure he drops anchor in the sea of tranquility before you get home for dinner. Weren’t expecting such poetry, were ya, pinhead?

            2. Yes, but they made a choice to more open. Here, the choice is being made on your behalf.

              1. I think you can consent to sign a petition and not consent to have it be publicly released. But…

                1. Did they sign the petition with that in mind? and if yes, did all of them? The idea that a petition is secret is news to me. I just figured no one would really care enough to chase someone down.

                2. I’m far more concerned about the million other ways government violates me without my consent.

                1. 1. To me, signing a petition is no different from any other kind of speech in support of whatever it is your signing. The fact that i do so with my name shouldn’t trigger any kind of disclosure.

                  Presuming you want to remain anonymous, should blog hosts be forced to disclose the IP addresses of bloggers or commenters on a referendum? We all leave tracks behind in our speech. Not all of them will be as explicit as our name, but they’re there just the same.

                  2. Agreed.

                2. SugarFree,

                  Did you real Alito’s concurrence? What did you think of his position?

                  To avoid the possibility that a disclosure requirement might chill the willingness of voters to sign a referendum petition (and thus burden a circulator’s ability to collect the necessary number of signatures, voters must have some assurance at the time when they are presented with the petition that their names and identifying information will not be released to the public. The only way a circulator can provide such assurance, however, is if the circulator has sought and obtained an as-applied exemption from the disclosure requirement well before circulating the petition. Otherwise, the best the circulator could do would be to tell voters that an exemption might be obtained at some point in the future.

  8. I don’t feel strongly either way on this.

    Signing a petition is not a pure speech act. Its an act with political consequences.

    OTOH, so is voting, which we allow to remain confidential. But voting for a candidate isn’t a step in the legislative process, while signing a petition for a ballot referendum is.

    Thomas is right that there are less restrictive means of addressing the fraud issue. OTOH, that’s only relevant once you decide that signing a petition should be a protected First Amendment activity.

    1. Signing a petition is not a pure speech act. Its an act with political consequences.

      And what kind of speech doesn’t have consequences, political or otherwise. In fact, I would argue any kind of speech is political in nature.

    2. Voting for the referendum on the ballot is as much a step in the legislative process, yet disclosure is not required.
      Voting for a candidate is as much a part of a process as donating to their campaign, yet disclosure is required.

    3. Voting and signing a petition are equivalent steps in the legislative process. You vote to elect a representative in hopes that he will propose laws with which you agree and will vote for or against laws as you see them. Signing a petition is a means of having that issue put before your civilian peers for review and an up or down vote. The two seem analagous to me.

      1. The representative is not anonymous.

        1. The analogue to the representative is not anonymous is the referendum is not anonymous.

  9. I think we should outlaw guns, because can you imagine the potential harm if a union goon got their hands on one?

    1. We agree. We’ll just use brute force, martial tactics, and sheer intimidation. We don’t need guns to bully your ass MNG; the old-fashioned ways are very satisfying, especially if you are elderly or in a wheelchair selling flags.

  10. The ballot initiative process is a legislative process.

    I can no more support “privacy” for signers of initiative petitions than I can support “privacy” being used as an argument to hide the voting records of members of Congress.

    Can any of you attacking this decision and praising Thomas’ dissent seriously tell me that you would favor suppression of, say, Barney Frank’s voting record from the public, on the basis of his “privacy”?

    “Oh noes,” Thomas would write. “If people know how Barney Frank is voting in Congress, that would have a chilling effect on his votes!”

    You know what? There damn well should be a chilling effect on what people do as part of the legislative process. You aren’t picking a representative here to make laws. You’re making laws. Personally, I would even support getting rid of the Australian ballot for citizen initiatives. You want to pass a law attacking my person or property? [Which is what virtually all of them are – they aren’t all winners like property tax caps.] Do it to my fucking face.

    1. We really, really like your style, eh, what is it, Fluffy? Yeah, you got a real way with words; you just make sure you keep singing that tune. We’d hate to have something crack that Adam’s apple of yours. Have you met my nightstick “Eve”?

    2. You’re just being silly on comparing speech to shielding legislative votes.

      Singing a petition for a initiative or a referendum is not making laws as you put it. It’s the beginning of the legislative process.

      What else is part of it? Op-eds in favor of it, donations, blogs, campaign ads, fliers, print ads, speeches, rallies, etc. Which of those should be entitled to 1st Amendment protection and which shouldn’t and why?

      I have one simple question. Where does the power for you to compel me to tell you what my beliefs and opinions are flow from?

      1. Where does the power for you to compel me to tell you what my beliefs and opinions are flow from?

        You weren’t compelled, you surrendered them. What you want is for the government to protect you from other people knowing what you already made public.

        That is not necessarily an argument against what you are saying, but should be made clear.

        1. When I put a sign in my yard or a bumper sticker on my car that proclaims support for whatever, I’ve surrendered my privacy.

          When I write down my name on a petition to be presented to the county clerk for the purposes of meeting an arbitrary number in order to determine whether or not some issue goes up for a public vote, that’s not done with an expectation that my name will be posted for all to see. I do the same when I send in cash to the campaign, unless I slip it under the HQ door in the dead of night.

          Now, should this partial surrendering trigger a complete surrender? I say no, but you knew that already.

        2. What you want is for the government to protect you from other people knowing what you already made public.

          (chuckles) Now, lemme get this straight, because this is a real prunella: you are saying since stuff is public, like criminal records, addresses and things like that. Places of business are our specialty, incidentally. So, Bork was right, there is no right to privacy except at the mercy of government or others. So any celebrity who puts themselves out there has no expectation of privacy, and if those special people don’t then the peons should be easy pickins! Thanks buddy!

        3. You weren’t compelled, you surrendered them. What you want is for the government to protect you from other people knowing what you already made public.

          Yes and no….

          I surrendered them because I had to in order to support something I believe in. I could have not “surrendered” them, but then I would have to sacrifice my right to petition my government.

          To me that’s not exactly voluntary.

          The choice is you can engage in the political process publicly, or you can remain anonymous but stay out of the political process. But you can’t to both.

          Why can’t I do both? (engage in the political process anonymously)

          (And again, Im not really staking out a position, just discussing)

      2. Nope.

        None of those things are actually part of the law-making mechanism.

        Ballot initiatives have a procedural formula that is directly analagous to the legislative process within legislatures.

        They were specifically DESIGNED to give citizens more direct control over the law-making process. But now that you have that control, you are in the same position over me as Barney Frank. There are just more of you now. Washington has a legislature of millions instead of a couple hundred, every time a ballot initiative is undertaken.

        Where does the power for you to compel me to tell you what my beliefs and opinions are flow from?

        When people make law over me, I have an unquestioned 1st Amendment right to petition them for a redress of grievances. That includes bitching you out, politically organizing against you, boycotting you privately, and everything else the people who want to make law anonymously are afraid I’ll do.

        1. None of those things are actually part of the law-making mechanism.

          ALL of them are part of it, just not procedurally as prescribed by law. You choose to parse it so that they are tangential to the process. I disagree.

          When people make law over me, I have an unquestioned 1st Amendment right to petition them for a redress of grievances.

          Then you have to stop drawing lines as to when law-making starts and ends. Either *every* action and *every* bit of speech going into the political process should be public or it shouldn’t.

          I realize that you are talking about the referendum/initiative process, but I find that distinction rather meaningless when talking about law making. if you’re going to enforce your grievance rights on everyone involved in the democratic process, it’s going to start looking a lot like the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

          1. ALL of them are part of it, just not procedurally as prescribed by law.

            Then you have to stop drawing lines as to when law-making starts and ends. Either *every* action and *every* bit of speech going into the political process should be public or it shouldn’t.

            Why do I have to stop drawing lines?

            The “procedurally required by law” line is a pretty bright line with very little ambiguity about it.

            I realize that you are talking about the referendum/initiative process, but I find that distinction rather meaningless when talking about law making.

            Then it’s meaningless in the other direction, too, and all votes by the Congress should also be secret.

            Oh wait – let me guess. You “draw a line” at the actions of the Congress. Right?

            1. Oh wait – let me guess. You “draw a line” at the actions of the Congress. Right?

              Yep. Anything before that is speech. I don’t care what form it comes in.

              Why do I have to stop drawing lines?

              You’ve made clear that you want to reserve the right to confront anyone who has participated in a process that attacks your liberties. I can dig that. God knows I’ve railed against the idiotic and confiscatory referendums that have come up where I live.

              But, either you want to do that or you don’t. That would involve anyone in support of such a referendum in any capacity. Saying that you only want to confront those who chose to sign their name on a sheet of paper is a cop out to me.

              Supporting a referendum to do X, in any fashion, is no different than signing your name. The difference here is that you have decided that this action is a worthwhile distinction simply by dint of the rules drawn up by our masters. I don’t buy it.

              1. That would involve anyone in support of such a referendum in any capacity.

                No, it wouldn’t.

                I guess the part of the argument you’re just not seeing is that private political activity by citizens in order to impact the outcome of a future vote is not, to me, the same as taking on the law-making power of the state to yourself.

                To me, in the initiative process, the citizens push the state aside and BECOME the state. In much more of a real and immediate sense than “the people are sovereign blah blah blah”. Since a mechanism has been created to allow groups of citizens to adopt the role of the legislature, at the moment they do so as far as I am concerned they are the legislature and all the rules and arguments about anonymity go out the window. I don’t think any agent of the state has any privacy rights whatsoever when they act in their capacity as agents of the state.

                1. I guess the part of the argument you’re just not seeing is that private political activity by citizens in order to impact the outcome of a future vote is not, to me, the same as taking on the law-making power of the state to yourself.

                  I do see it. I just don’t agree with your interpretation of the events.

                  Look, it’s just silly to sit there and say that *all* the activity involved in the process: volunteering, politicing, funding, advocacy, all of the explicit support of the referendum, up to and including actually voting for or against it, should be anonymous and deserving of 1st amendment protection, but the action of signing your name in a peition shouldn’t.

                  Sorry, but that doesn’t compute.

                  Thinking about this more on the way home, we are talking about 2 different types of expectations of privacy: public and governmental. In the case of signing a petition, no, you really shouldn’t have an expecation of governmental privacy, since you are explicitly stating your view. Even then, it’s a limited expectation. I expect the election officials to see my name, but that’s it. I don’t expect that information to be used for tax audit purposes.

                  However, in the case of public privacy, I have a full expectation that my name will not be shared with the public. As Stado noted below, I am not asnwerable to you for my views in any legal sense, nor you to me. I am not the government, no matter how much I choose to participate (or not participate) in the democratic process and despite your warped interpretation.

                  If you have a problem with that, then fuck voting and we should be talking about alternate systems, where the peaceful transfer of power is only a fond memory. Sure, I get pissed and have violent thoughts sometimes about my fellow countryman and how badly they are fucking us down the road, but I’m not about to go to my neighbor and beat him senseless, in front of his family, over a disagreement over policy and ideology.

                  Are you? Are you really that fucking angry?

      3. It flows from your move to directly make laws over me – through a referendum.

    3. I am not “attacking and praising”, but I don’t think yours is the only way of looking at it.

      I don’t see much of a difference between voting for someone who then is allowed to do any number of legislative things and voting for an initiative. The same as hiring a hitman versus doing the job yourself.

      1. Because the law-making responsibility ultimately falls on the legislator in a representative system.

        I need to be able to know how Barney Frank has voted in order to hold him accountable.

        I should be entitled to know who the citizen-legislators are who are fucking with me so that I can hold them accountable.

        1. And Fluffy, we have our interests too. And we protect those interests very, shall we say, enthusiastically. Trust you me, we’ll be keeping tabs on you and your fellow citizens. We are in the accountability industry as well.

          1. The fact that some union asshole might be illegal means to avenge themselves upon some legislator or citizen-legislator is no justification for preventing me from doing the same thing with legal means.

            1. Sorry, that should say, “…might use illegal means…”

            2. Legal means are great, but how well do those means work against those who have the gold therefore making the rules? We like your idealism, but how well does idealism keep ya breathing? We think the same way, just difference without distinction.

        2. Fluffy-

          I think you just exposed the distinction. You have power over the legislative representative. Therefore it is important you have the transparency to hold him/her accountable (voting that person out of office).

          But you DON’T have power over the public. If you found out that your neighbor held a political position you dislike, you have no power to “hold him to account”. He is not accountable to you.

          1. To clarify a bit more, Fluffy, you are starting from the assumption that transparency is required because people are making laws that affect us. This is an incorrect assumption.

            We require transparency from our elected officials because we have hired them to create laws on our behalf. Therefore, as employers of those representatives, we have a right to know what they are doing with those delegated powers so that we can decide whether or not to retain their services longer.

            But when I vote for laws or representatives, I am not doing so at your behest. I am not your employee. Sure, the laws I support may impact you, just as the Representative I elect may impact you. This does not require me to grant you information on my choices.

            I don’t see why you have ANY right to hold me accountable for my political preferences. I am not accountable to you.

            1. ^^This.

              Thanks for catching an obvious point that I missed.

            2. This is nonsense.

              This has nothing to do with an employer-employee relationship.

              It has to do with the consent of the governed.

              I am entitled to know the content of the laws and to confront those who make the laws.

              Anyone who makes laws under which I live is accountable to me. Up to and including the fact that it may become necessary for me to cut off their fucking head.

    4. You’re not making laws. You’re proposing that a law be considered by your fellow constituents. It is up to them to determine whether that law is worthy of being made.

      1. If it gets the law on the ballot, it’s part of the law-making process.

        JW wants to know what’s speech and what’s lawmaking.

        Well, let’s say we were dealing with a member of Congress. I would say that anything he does outside the halls of Congress is speech, but anything he does within those halls is law-making.

        Inside the halls of Congress, somebody has to sponsor a law and offer it up to be voted on.

        That’s what the citizens are doing when they sign the ballot petition. They are sponsoring the law for consideration.

        Anything else you do in support of a ballot initiative – write letters, give money, make phone calls, whatever – I would say is speech and you should have the right to engage in it anonymously.

        But signing the petition is an official act of governance, to the extent that a certain number of signatures is required to get the initiative on the ballot. If something is written into the mechanical procedures of law-making and you participate in it, it should be public record.

        1. We agree. We prefer the proactive approach, but such transparency lets us know whose palms to grease or whose ass to…well, encourage, after the fact. Not as effective, but can certainly send our message for the next time.

  11. Come on. people! citizens have already suffered severe consequences for their support of controversial issues. The guy in California that supported Prop 8, for one. Yes, the petition is a little different, but there is still the very real possibility that some left wing statist will wreck your life if they find out you signed the wrong petition. Do you really think some people think twice about participating?
    In fact, I’m scared shitless that the Drug Czar got my real name when I tweeted a legalization question to the Washington Journal this morning.

    1. Why are you specifying “left wing” statist? You don’t think the right wing statists can’t do the same thing?

      1. My bad. No doubt right wing statists are just as dangerous.

  12. Does anyone else find the irony of people complaining about anonymity while posting under pseudonyms just a bit too much? Or is it just me?

    1. Not really, because I only use a handle because I like it. Anyone with half a brain could figure out who I am if they want do.

      I wouldn’t sign a petition “SugarFree” and hope to get away with it.

      (By the way, I’m just enjoying the argument, not getting on you.)

    2. No, I don’t.

      I can write on this stupid board until the sun becomes a red giant and at no point will that put me in a position of governance over you, or make me part of the process of making the laws you will have to live by.

      1. Then you and I will just have to agree to disagree. It’s all part of the process, down the polite conversation you had this morning with the cab driver about the oil spill.

  13. Nothing today on Skilling v. US. It should be noted that both Scalia and Thomas wanted to declare the honest services statute unconstitutional.

  14. And the current Drudge lead headline is priceless. Anyone know exactly what a “crazed sex poodle” is?

    1. Sit! I have stories…

      1. I am a little disappointed in the Reason comentariat. This Al Gore story is the best one since Spitzer getting caught with a whore. But nary a peep out of Reason.

        1. They will wait until after hours and then will only publish three drawings of the AGW prophet.

    2. Masseuse’s claims read like R-rated vice presidential fan fiction

      OK, that does sound disturbing.

  15. Hmm:

    Petitions are public records.

    You must prove you are a registered voter to sign a petition.

    So signing a public petition must be a public act.

    How is that wrong?

  16. http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/b…..omb-parts/

    Here is some thuggery for you

    Spain’s Dr. Gabriel Calzada ? the author of a damning study concluding that Spain’s “green jobs” energy program has been a catastrophic economic failure ? was mailed a dismantled bomb on Tuesday by solar energy company Thermotechnic.

    Says Calzada:

    Before opening it, I called [Thermotechnic] to know what was inside ? they answered, it was their answer to my energy pieces.

    Dr. Calzada contacted a terrorism expert to handle the package. The expert first performed a scan of the package, then opened it in front of a journalist, Dr. Calzada, and a private security expert.

    The terrorism consultant said he had seen this before:

    This time you receive unconnected pieces. Next time it can explode in your hands.

    Dr. Calzada added:

    [The terrorism expert] told me that this was a warning.

    1. We like how these solar guys roll! (taking notes) The dismantled device, the cover of green jobs making it all unicorns and sprinkles, hell it’d be like Rip Taylor hand delivering you a warning! Nice touch!

  17. Homosexuality is not a sin according to the Bible. Any educated Christian would know that. Scholars who have studied the Bible in context of the times and in relation to other passages have shown those passages (Leviticus, Corinthians, Romans, etc) have nothing to do with homosexuality. These passages often cherry-picked while ignoring the rest of the Bible. The sins theses passages are referring to are idolatry, prostitution, and rape, not homosexuality.

    (Change *** to www)
    ***.soulfoodministry.org/docs/English/NotASin.htm
    ***.jesus21.com/content/sex/bible_homosexuality_print.html
    ***.christchapel.com/reclaiming.html
    ***.stjohnsmcc.org/new/BibleAbuse/BiblicalReferences.php
    ***.gaychristian101.com/

  18. Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don’t choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.

    (Change *** to www)
    ***-news.uchicago.edu/releases/03/differential-brain-activation.pdf
    ***.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html
    Gay, Straight Men’s Brain Responses Differ
    ***.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155990,00.html
    ***.livescience.com/health/060224_gay_genes.html
    ***.springerlink.com/content/w27453600k586276/

    There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. “Nurture” may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

    And it should also be noted that:
    “It is worth noting that many medical and scientific organizations do believe it is impossible to change a person’s sexual orientation and this is displayed in a statement by American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association.”

  19. The National Library of Medicine pubs confirm that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced in the first trimester of pregnancy, morally neutral, immutable, neither contagious nor learned, bearing no relation to an individuals ability to form deep and lasting relationships, to parent children, to work or to contribute to society.

    From the American Psychological Association: homosexuality is normal; homosexual relationships are normal.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Asociation and American Psychiatric Asociation have endorsed civil marriage for same-sex couples because marriage strengthens mental and physical health and longevity of couples, and provides greater legal and financial security for children, parents and seniors.

    America’s premier child/mental health associations endorse marriage equality.

  20. This was taken from another poster that shows why we need to legalize gay marriage. If you don’t feel for this person after reading it, you simply aren’t human.

    “I am not sure what our President thinks of this dicission but coming from a poor family and knowing what discrimination is all about I would assume he would not care if “Gays” have equal rights. The whole reason why they are asking for rights to be considered married is from the same reason why I would be for it. My own life partner commited suicide in our home with a gun to his heart. After a 28 year union I was deprived to even go his funeral. We had two plots next to each other. But because we did not have a marriage cirtificate “(Legal Document)” of our union his mother had him cremated and his ashes taken back to Missouri where we came from. That is only one example how painful it is. His suicide tramatized me so much and her disregard for my feelings only added to my heartach. That happened on March 21 of 2007 and I still cannot type this without crying for the trauma I have to endure each day. Oh did I mention I am in an electric wheelchair for life? Yes I am and it is very diffacult to find another mate when you are 58 and in a wheelchair. “

  21. Violence against a minority group

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_against_LGBT_people

    Gays are being beaten, shot at, sent to the hospital, killed. In the Middle East, they are killing gays among other groups out of hatred. Is this what we want America to become? Do we want America to revert back to the 1960’s when groups were killed and segregated against for simply no good reason? Do we want to follow the ways of the Middle East and Al Queda? Let’s push forward, it’s time to end bigotry, discrimination, hate, and ignorance. This is modern America, not the Dark Ages.

    http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/civilrights/hate.htm

  22. This spamming proves that there are some groups that you just can’t afford to get on the wrong side of.

  23. With current situations , this article suit best.

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