News (USA)

PDC rules against R-71 donor secrecy; group files suit against ballot measure

R71 PetitionThe names and addresses of donors to Referendum 71 will not be exempt from public disclosure, the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission ruled Thursday, while another group moved to block the measure entirely.

The request to remove the names was made earlier this month by Protect Marriage Washington, the group backing Referendum 71, which seeks to put newly expanded domestic partnership benefits up to a public vote in November, citing threats of violence against supporters and churches.

But campaign finance regulators unanimously rejected the request, saying that while Protect Marriage Washington did provide some threatening e-mails and blog postings, it “provided no evidence from or about donors that have demonstrated that they have received threats of violence against their lives or property,” or that they were being targeted for boycotts, PDC assistant director Doug Ellis said during the hearing.

Washington gay-rights groups have threatened to publicly expose the signers of the R-71 petition.

Meanwhile, a proponent of the state’s new “everything but marriage” same-sex domestic partner law, Washington Families Standing Together, has filed suit in King County Superior Court to keep the state from certifying the measure for the fall ballot.

The group claims that the secretary of state has not complied with the law in processing Referendum 71. Signature gatherers are supposed to sign declarations saying that signatures they’ve collected are valid to the best of their knowledge and that they personally circulated the petition, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs say Secretary of State Sam Reed ignored requirements that say only registered voters can sign petitions. As a result, signatures by individuals not registered to vote at the time they signed a petition were counted toward the total number of signatures, “in contravention of state law,” the suit claims.

Attorneys are scheduling hearings for early next week.

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