Reclaim Idaho files lawsuit over new ballot initiative law


Reclaim Idaho, the group behind the 2018 Medicaid expansion initiative, filed a lawsuit in Idaho Supreme Court on Friday attempting to strike down a new law they say makes it harder to bring a people’s ballot initiative forward.

Another group comprising Idaho lawyers, The Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, also has signed on as plaintiffs for the case of Reclaim Idaho V. Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

The groups hope the Idaho Supreme Court will strike down Senate Bill 1110, which Gov. Brad Little signed into law April 17.

The law makes it so that organizers of an initiative or referendum need to gather signatures from 6% of voters in all 35 Idaho legislative districts. The previous law required signatures from 6% of voters in 18 districts. 

The new law forces signature collectors to travel to the most far flung, least populated and remote parts of the state to gather signatures to qualify an initiative.

Supporters of the law said that is important to ensure every part of Idaho is included in the initiative process. But opponents say that every voter already has a say because initiatives go before all voters on Election Day. 

“The 35 district rule makes it virtually impossible for any campaign that doesn’t have $2 million or more to qualify an initiative for the ballot,” Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said in a telephone interview. 

Mayville said the $2 million figure is an estimate for the cost to pay signature gathers based on a 2018 horse racing initiative that came before voters.

Mayville said paid signature campaigns are extremely rare because of the funding required. Reclaim Idaho is a volunteer driven organization that led the 2018 Medicaid expansion initiative, which passed with 60.6% support from voters. The horse racing initiative, which was totally separate, failed with 46.2% support. 

The people’s initiative and referendum processes are rights enshrined in the Idaho Constitution. 

“The people reserve to themselves the power to propose law and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature. This power is known as the initiative,” according to Article Three, Section One of the Idaho Constitution. 

Similar to an initiative, a referendum is the people’s ability to approve or reject at the polls any law or measure passed by the Legislature.

Thousands of Idahoans already spoke out against the new initiative law. Of the 6,150 emails and phone calls Little received about Senate 1110, more than 97% asked him to veto the bill, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

Last month, former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court Jim Jones delivered Little a petition with 16,000 signatures asking Little to veto the bill. Jones has worked with the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution. 

If Reclaim Idaho wins its lawsuit, Mayville said the group will move forward with a ballot initiative designed to generate more than $200 million per year for K-12 education by raising income taxes. 

Mayville also said Reclaim Idaho is prepared to move forward to launch a signature drive to qualify the Initiative Rights Act for the 2022 ballot, which would restore signature requirements that existed in 2012. Those requirements called for collecting signatures from 6% of voters statewide, regardless of the legislative district they live in. 

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.


Clark Corbin

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