Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Argues for state’s public disclosure act on April 28

OLYMPIA—Secretary of State Sam Reed will join Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna in Washington, DC, at the end of the month as McKenna argues his third US Supreme Court case, defending the constitutionality of Washington’s voter-approved public records law.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 28, McKenna will argue Doe v. Reed, asking the Court to uphold a Ninth Circuit ruling that the state's public disclosure law is constitutional and petitions including the names and addresses of those who signed Referendum 71 should be released as a matter of public record. R-71 placed the state's expanded domestic partnership law on the November 2009 ballot. Lower courts originally blocked the release of the petitions, ruling that the state's disclosure law violated referendum-signers’ rights to anonymous political speech.

“This case has broad implications for public disclosure and transparency in elections across America,” McKenna said. “Of the 24 states who have both an initiative and referendum process, 23 release information about the petitioners under their public records laws.  We look forward to the opportunity to defend transparency in the elections process--not just for the people of our state but for people in all states that offer the right to directly participate in lawmaking through the initiative and referendum process.”

McKenna will depart for Washington, DC, on Tuesday, April 20, to prepare for the argument and participate in two “moot courts” – simulated court proceedings used to provide additional preparation. The last opportunity for media interviews with McKenna will be April 19. Reed will be available for interviews through the date of the argument.

“We firmly believe that participating in the initiative and referendum process is a public act of citizen legislating, with disclosure of petitions required under the framework of our Public Records Act,” Reed said. “We also believe we can provide transparency and accountability in elections without violating voters’ constitutional rights, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals correctly decided.

“When people sign petitions in malls, at county fairs and in other public settings and those petitions are viewed by other signers, petition-gathers and campaign staff, it’s clear this process does not carry the expectation of the privacy we have with voting,” he said. “We are confident that Attorney General McKenna will successfully defend the public’s right to their records, and that our election and criminal laws will safeguard against harassment or intimidation of signers.”

Briefs and other legal documents are available on the Secretary of State’s Web site. 

A backgrounder on the case, including information about the US Supreme Court, is available on the Attorney General’s Web site. 

McKenna and Reed will be available for interviews with DC-based reporters immediately following the April 28 argument on the plaza outside the US Supreme Court. They will host a remote availability for reporters from Washington state at 10 a.m. PDT post-argument from Washington, DC.

Teleconference line for 4/28 availability:  (800) 423-1988, x 1451002



Janelle Guthrie, Attorney General’s Office Communications Director, (360) 586-0725
David Ammons, Secretary of State’s Office Communications Director, (360) 902-4140