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0 comments | January 16, 2007 | 1:42 PM | posted by Ryan

Early in the proceedings, a dispute arose in which Justice Alito questioned how the Washington State Supreme Court could determine the voter’s intent when they passed I-134.

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, how can the State Supreme Court determine what is the
purpose, the intent, of the ballot initiative?
MR. MCKENNA: I'm not certain, Your Honor. They referred to the-
JUSTICE ALITO: A lot of people voted for it.
JUSTICE ALITO: But is the State Supreme Court in a position to determine why they voted for it?
MR. MCKENNA: They simply hold, Your Honor, in their opinion that this is what the voters intended.
JUSTICE ALITO: How do they know that?
MR. MCKENNA: I don't know how they know it, Your Honor.
The question posed to Attorney General McKenna required him to perform a difficult task; explain, from a legal and logical standpoint, a political ideal that six justices haphazardly stuffed into a legal opinion. Consider also that the majority waited until one of their number retired and then gave her the task of writing the opinion. Why didn’t one of the five currently sitting justices in the majority write the opinion? Were they afraid of voter backlash?

Regardless, the answer to Justice Alito’s question is simple. The first part of the answer, he gave himself, “A lot of people voted for it.” In the case of I-134 an overwhelming 72 percent of voters approved it.

What then, did voters vote for? In this case, we must refer to the “Intent” language of the initiative.

Findings and Intent

limiting campaign contributions, the people intend to:
(1) Ensure that individuals and interest groups have fair and equal opportunity to influence elective and governmental processes;
(2) Reduce the influence of large organizational contributors; and
(3) Restore public trust in governmental institutions and the electoral process.
Sec.2.(1) says it all and, as applied to this case, implies that Washington state voters intended to give individuals a fair and equal opportunity to influence elections. This naturally includes protecting their First Amendment rights by prohibiting them from being forced to contribute, or not contribute, to candidates and causes they disagree with.

The Washington State Supreme Court is often called upon to interpret voter intent, but little re-interpretation is needed when the initiative specifically included intent language.

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