"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

More civility than you might expect

From today’s e-mail by David Ammons, of the Washington secretary of state’s office:

FYI: Excellent column today by Danny Westneat, quoting Secretary Reed, on how release of initiative/referendum petitions has not resulted in intimidation, and about how civil the conversation and campaigns have been this year on some difficult ballot issues – gay marriage and marijuana legalization, most notably.

Sam, of course, has made civility and open government/transparency signature issues. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a challenge of the Secretary of State’s view that our voter-approved Public Records Act applies to initiative/referendum petitions. The case arose from release of petition signatures for Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic-partner benefits that passed in 2009. The court noted that the signers’ names have been on the Internet for months, without incident, and that challengers have not shown examples of intimidation or chilling the initiative process. The U.S. Supreme Court previously also has upheld the general constitutionality of public records release of petitions, in Doe v. Reed.

At the time of the 8-1 court victory, Reed urged citizens not to misuse the public documents by harassing or intimidating people who are using their constitutional right of citizen legislating. No one should pay a price for exercising those rights, he said at the time. He also continues to urges a civil tone when people discuss divisive or difficult issues – to “disagree agreeably.”

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