Idaho Supreme Court blocks ballot initiative law

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 19:27:44-04

The Idaho Supreme Court released a ruling Monday, blocking a ballot initiative law that passed in the 2021 legislative session.

There were two petitions challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1110. The first petition, brought by Michael Stephen Gilmore, was dismissed for lack of standing, according to the summary statement.

The second petition, filed by Reclaim Idaho and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, Inc., was ruled by the Court had standing “because they alleged a particularized injury that is traceable to SB 1110,” wrote Justice Gregory W. Moeller, writing for the majority of the court.

“Regarding the merits of Reclaim and the Committee’s petition, we grant the petition in part by declaring that section 34-1805(2) violates Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution because the initiative and referendum powers are fundamental rights, reserved to the people of Idaho, to which strict scrutiny applies,” wrote Moeller.

Senate Bill 1110 was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little on April 17, 2021. The bill would have required signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in all of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to be able to qualify any initiative for a spot on the ballot.

"What the court said was that if you were to acquire 6% in every single district, what could happen is that you could hypothetically have a situation wherein only one district you can't get 6% and so only one district could prevent something before going towards a vote a statewide vote and that that is too cumbersome,” Associate Professor at Boise State University School of Public Service Jeff Lyons said.

Related: 16,000 signatures presented to Gov. Little in opposition of ballot initiative bill

“Thousands of Idahoans are breathing sighs of relief today,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville in the written release. “In the face of an assault on the initiative process by the Idaho legislature, our Supreme Court has fulfilled its obligation to protect the rights of every Idahoan.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke also released a statement on the Supreme Court Decision.

“Members of the Idaho House Republican Caucus are disappointed at the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision limiting the voice of rural voters,” said Speaker of the House Scott Bedke. “These changes to the voter referendum/initiative process would’ve served to increase voter involvement and inclusivity, especially in the corners of the state too often forgotten by some. We believe that all the 35 legislative districts, every part of Idaho, should be included in this important process, unfortunately, the Supreme Court apparently disagrees.”

House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel said in a statement Idaho democratic lawmakers “applauded” the decision from the Court.

“This bill never should have been passed in the first place as it was in clear violation of the ballot initiative rights established in the Idaho Constitution. Elected representatives should be working to protect the people’s constitutional rights, not take those rights away as the Idaho GOP did here,” Rubel said in the statement. “I am very proud that every Democrat voted against this bill because we recognize the importance of citizens’ rights, and we’ll continue to fight for them.”

Little vetoed a similar bill in 2019 that would have required 32 of the 35 districts to have signatures.