The Seattle Times editorializes this morning, once again defending the initiative process status quo, and quite frankly its arguments are a stinking pile of shit so weak and unsupportable that they are forced to resort to the lowest of rhetorical lows… the anecdote.
In attacking efforts to impose some degree of accountability onto the process, the Times attempts to strike an emotional chord by propagandistically rising to the defense of the poor, embattled signature gatherer:
Jaye Anderson, testified about what it’s like. She said, “I’ve been spat on. I’ve had French fries thrown at me. I’ve had people following me to my car.” There are, she said, “a lot of weirdos out there.”
Like many signature gatherers, she is in her 60s, and not physically imposing. She has reason not to put her home address on the petitions, which are public documents.
I’ve had people call me up in the middle of the night threatening to come to my house and “beat the commie crap” out of me. I’ve had scores of anti-semitic comments and emails joyfully telling me that when “the Sweep” comes they want to be the first at my door, or laughing that I can have all my fancy words, “but we own all the guns.” I’ve had a load of horse manure dumped on my sidewalk, and the car tabs repeatedly scraped off my license plate in what I suppose is intended to be an ironic gesture. I’ve been falsely and maliciously reported to authorities for soliciting sex from minors online. I’ve received death threats.
As a blogger and journalist (yes, journalist) I’m at least as integral a part of our democratic process as an itinerate signature gatherer, and yet I don’t see the Times demanding that the state protect my anonymity.
Yes, initiative petitions are public records. Everybody and anybody who signs a petition is potentially putting their name and address out there for all to see. And the signature gatherer should be no different.
What the Times doesn’t tell its readers is that there have been documented cases of signature fraud throughout the nation, and that the only way to track down the perpetrators is to have them identify themselves on the petition. The Times wouldn’t protect the rights of poll workers and elections officials to remain anonymous (at least I hope they wouldn’t,) so why should they protect the anonymity of signature gatherers? Everybody who participates in the electoral process can be identified in the public record… except for the migrant, piecemeal workers who collect the bulk of our signatures. What sense is there in that?
There is nothing inviolate about the statutes currently governing the initiative process — which I should remind the Times were written by, you know, legislators — the same sort of legislators the Times now mocks and excoriates for attempting to update our laws to meet the demands of modern times. But then, I have trouble taking the Times’ holier-than-thou grandstanding seriously. Personally, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just another one of their occasional bouts of faux populism intended to cover up and facilitate (and perhaps, make themselves feel better about) the corporatist agenda their op/ed page routinely promulgates.