Why Bother With Secret Ballots?

I find myself in the rare and awkward position of agreeing with Danny Westneat. Yeah, I said it was a rare thing, right? Today in his column, Westneat makes the case that publishing the names of petition signers serves no purpose other than to expose them to possible harassment.

The organization that sued, Washington Families Standing Together, says they want to be able to independently verify the validity of the petition signatures that placed Referendum 71 on the November ballot. I have no reason to doubt their motives, but what about other groups or individuals whose motives, as Westneat says, might not be so pure?

There is no point to knowing who signed these petitions. Other than to try to “out” them, as some gay-rights groups say they want to do to the 138,000 people who signed to put Referendum 71 up for a Nov. 3 vote.

Especially in the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 ugliness, I think it was prudent of the lower court judges to carefully consider the unintended consequences of overturning a long-standing legal precedent. It’s a bit of a given in our society that we can keep our political beliefs to ourselves. In fact, I would say it’s a foundational component of the success of our political system. It would be foolish to throw that away in a snit over a single issue.

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