BOISE, Idaho — Over the weekend, Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law that makes it almost twice as hard to collect signatures for citizen initiatives. It nearly doubles the number of districts that groups must gather signatures from to get an initiative on the ballot.
Opponents say it will make it almost impossible for any grassroots legislation to pass again. A group called Reclaim Idaho plans to sue the state and claims the legislation is taking away citizen initiative rights.
Governor Little has taken away our citizen initiative rights, so we've decided to file a lawsuit to get them back. Help us build our Initiative Defense Fund by chipping in $5 or more: https://t.co/DWvUKkwB1o pic.twitter.com/2bzIUvzelL— Reclaim Idaho (@reclaimID) April 18, 2021
“The fight isn’t over. Not even close, because we’ve already decided to file a lawsuit to ask the courts to strike down this legislation and to protect the rights of the people of Idaho,” Co-Founder of Reclaim Idaho, Luke Mayville said.
Before SB1110 was signed into law by Little, Idaho was already one of the toughest states for initiatives because it required 18 districts to gather signatures for any ballot initiative. Now, it's all 35.
“We've had those requirements for the past 8 years, and during those 8 years, 13 of the 15 initiatives attempted failed. Only two of the 15 initiatives made it on the ballot and only of them actually passed and that was Medicaid expansion,” Mayville said. “So, it's extremely difficult, even under the previous rules, to get something on the ballot. Imagine taking that and making it twice as difficult, at least.”
In 2019, Little vetoed a similar bill that would have required 32 of the 35 legislative districts to have signatures. He stated he “questioned the constitutional sufficiency of the bills and the unintended consequences of their passage”
In Little’s transmittal letter for SB1110, he says he has similar concerns, but this bill presents a closer call.
“Idaho has an important interest in ensuring that our ballots are not cluttered with initiatives that have not demonstrated sufficient grassroots support. Under current law, an initiative can qualify for the ballot after collecting voter signatures in only a few of Idaho's more populated, urban areas.”
“Rural voters have actually had their voice heard through the initiatives process. How could it possibly be that your empowering rural voters, that your helping rural voters by preventing any grassroots initiative from making it on the ballot,” Mayville said.