This article was written by Kevin Richert with Idaho Education News.
Reclaim Idaho is starting online signature gathering for its $170 million to $200 million K-12 funding initiative — even as legal wrangling continues over the process.
“This is a win for Idaho’s constitution and Idaho voters. They can weigh in on a vital issue in a safe and secure way without jeopardizing their health,” Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said in a Monday news release touting the start of the online petition drive.
Two federal courts have sided with Reclaim Idaho’s attempt to revive its “Invest in Idaho” initiative. The court rulings give Reclaim Idaho 48 days to collect the roughly 30,000 signatures it needs to get its initiative on the November ballot. That 48-day window opened Thursday, translating to an Aug. 26 deadline.
However, the state plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a final attempt to derail the signature drive.
Reclaim Idaho suspended online signature gathering in March — days after the state reported its confirmed coronavirus case, and weeks before the April 30 deadline to qualify an initiative for the ballot. Reclaim Idaho said state leaders stymied the group’s attempt to move to an online campaign. In late June, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the state had violated Reclaim Idaho’s First Amendment rights.
A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld Winmill’s order Thursday, allowing online campaigning to begin.
While attorneys for the state and Reclaim Idaho have sparred in court over First Amendment issues, they also are at loggerheads about the process itself.
In a Thursday court filing, the state raised several questions about DocuSign, the vendor Reclaim Idaho would use for signature gathering. Among other concerns, the state says it has no assurance DocuSign will protect personal information gathered during the signature drive.
“Defendants cannot agree to Reclaim Idaho’s proposal for collecting electronic signatures on their initiative petition,” Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrondo wrote. “To do so would undermine public faith in elections and disregard the will of Idaho’s elected representatives.”
Reclaim Idaho says its plan for collecting signatures is secure. In a court filing Friday, Reclaim Idaho attorneys Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham say the state’s Thursday filing raises “myriad new concerns” never discussed in several meetings with the group.
Reclaim Idaho’s initiative would increase corporate tax rates and income tax rates for Idahoans making more than $250,000, generating $170 million to $200 million a year. These new taxes would go into a special fund for K-12 programs.