On Thursday, October 15, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order overturning a decision of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington that barred the Washington Secretary of State from any public release of documents showing names and contact information of referendum petition signers. The particular case involved Washington Referendum Measure No. 71 (“R-71”). See our September 25, 2009 blog posting for more information regarding the earlier ruling of the District Court.

On the same day, the Secretary of State’s Election Division issued a narrative explaining why the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, treats initiative and referendum petitions as public records subject to disclosure under the Washington Public Records Act.

Despite the Ninth Circuit ruling, the names have not been released due to a temporary restraining order granted by a Thurston County Superior Court judge blocking the State from releasing initiative petitions under the Public Records Act. The District Court decision was issued in response to a lawsuit, seeking to stop the release of petitions, brought by Tim Eyman, a well known sponsor of initiatives and referendums.