Arguments — Rejection, dispute.
(1) If in the opinion of the secretary of state any argument or statement offered for inclusion in the voters' pamphlet in support of or opposition to a measure or candidate contains obscene matter or matter that is otherwise prohibited by law from distribution through the mail, the secretary may petition the superior court of Thurston county for a judicial determination that the argument or statement may be rejected for publication or edited to delete the matter. The court shall not enter such an order unless it concludes that the matter is obscene or otherwise prohibited for distribution through the mail.
(2) A candidate's statement submitted for inclusion in the voters' pamphlet shall not contain false or misleading statements about the candidate's opponent. A false or misleading statement shall be considered "libel or defamation per se" if the statement tends to expose the candidate to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or to deprive him or her of the benefit of public confidence or social intercourse, or to injure him or her in his or her business or occupation. If a candidate believes his or her opponent has libeled or defamed him or her, the candidate may commence an action under subsection (3) of this section.
(3)(a) A person who believes that he or she may be defamed by an argument or statement offered for inclusion in the voters' pamphlet in support of or opposition to a measure or candidate may petition the superior court of Thurston county for a judicial determination that the argument or statement may be rejected for publication or edited to delete the defamatory statement.
(b) The court shall not enter such an order unless it concludes that the statement is untrue and that the petitioner has a very substantial likelihood of prevailing in a defamation action.
(c) An action under this subsection (3) must be filed and served no later than the tenth day after the deadline for the submission of the argument or statement to the secretary of state.
(d) If the secretary of state notifies a person named or identified in an argument or statement of the contents of the argument or statement within three days after the deadline for submission to the secretary, then neither the state nor the secretary is liable for damages resulting from publication of the argument or statement unless the secretary publishes the argument or statement in violation of an order entered under this section. Nothing in this section creates a duty on the part of the secretary of state to identify, locate, or notify the person.
(4) Parties to a dispute under this section may agree to resolve the dispute by rephrasing the argument or statement, even if the deadline for submission to the secretary has elapsed, unless the secretary determines that the process of publication is too far advanced to permit the change. The secretary shall promptly provide any such revision to any committee entitled to submit a rebuttal argument. If that committee has not yet submitted its rebuttal, its deadline to submit a rebuttal is extended by five days. If it has submitted a rebuttal, it may revise it to address the change within five days of the filing of the revised argument with the secretary.
(5) In an action under this section the committee or candidate must be named as a defendant, and may be served with process by certified mail directed to the address contained in the secretary's records for that party. The secretary of state shall be a nominal party to an action brought under subsection (3) of this section, solely for the purpose of determining the content of the voters' pamphlet. The superior court shall give such an action priority on its calendar.
[2009 c 222 § 3; 2003 c 111 § 809. Prior: 1999 c 260 § 8. Formerly RCW 29.81.280.]
| Intent -- Findings -- 2009 c 222: See note following RCW 42.17A.335.|