Just collecting some links for a moment until I understand the impact.
Walter makes an interesting point about the First Amendment interest at stake in Doe v. Reed, Thursday's decision about the forced disclosure of information concerning individuals who sign a petition to get a referendum on the ballot. Generally, we expect actions with legislative consequences to be taken on the public record. Asserting a right to privacy over such actions seems anomalous. But one of the interesting things about this case is that the state's interest on the other side of the ledger is also a bit unusual. The court identifies the state's interest in disclosing the names primarily as in preventing election fraud. The state certainly has an important interest in doing so, but it is not at all clear that is what this disclosure law was designed to do. After all, the law at issue, Washington state's public-records act, is not a provision of the election code specifically designed to fight election fraud. Instead, the law is essentially a state-version of FOIA—the Freedom of Information Act—which makes all public records subject to disclosure. It just happens that once signatures are submitted to the Secretary of State, they become public records subject to disclosure.
EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, on Doe v Reed
There have been a number of notable instances of retaliation against petition signatories in the United States, but none are more famous than those undertaken by the McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities Committee. In the 1960’s the Un-American Activities Committee pursued a number of “suspected communists.” Hearing records indicate that many of these suspects were named based on their participation as signatories in a variety of petitions, including a Petition to free Earl Browder, Communist Party Election Petitions, Communist Party Nominating Petitions, a petition to Governor Olsen of California to free Sam Darey, a petition for the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, a petition for the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties, petitions against the Mundt-Nixon Bill, and numerous other organizations. Witnesses before the Committee linked individuals with petitions they signed, then identified the individuals as communists (often as the basis of petition involvement). Many individuals named as communists suffered personal, political, and professional repercussions of these hearings.
one more from EPIC; this one needs to be verified before being believed to be true;
There are many more localized, modern examples of retaliation against petition signatories, as well. In Northern Michigan, the signatories of a recall petition expressed concerns about retaliation after state troopers began knocking on the doors of citizens who signed the petition. Petition signatories reported that officers were “harassing” and practicing “retaliation and intimidation.”