The Idaho Supreme Court overturned a new ballot initiative law on Monday.
The new law, originating from Senate Bill 1110, was passed during Idaho’s 2021 Legislative session. According to the bill, signatures would need to be gathered from all 35 Legislative Districts in order to get an initiative on a ballot. The previous law required signatures from only a few districts.
The court ruled that lawmakers had no compelling interest to add significant restrictions to Idaho’s ballot initiative process. The attorney fees and costs were awarded by the Justices to the plaintiffs, Reclaim Idaho, and The Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution.
Senate Bill 1110 was surrounded by controversy from its beginning. Groups and individuals cited concerns that the bill would make it harder to get initiatives on the ballot, therefore taking away the voice of the people. Reclaim Idaho, the group behind the 2018 Medicaid expansion initiative, sued the state earlier this year to strike down the law and all requirements that campaigns would need to get signatures from different legislative districts.
Following the court ruling, Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho told the Idaho Press “Thousands of Idahoans will be breathing a sigh of relief…Those of us directly involved in the case are ecstatic. It’s an historic day. A fundamental right of the people of Idaho has been restored.”
Supporters of the bill felt that the new ballot initiative law would provide a wider range of individuals, especially those in rural areas, more of a voice in saying what initiatives should go on a ballot. The law prior to Senate Bill 1110 stated signatures could be collected in just four counties (18 districts total) to get an initiative on a ballot.
Senate Bill 1110 sponsor, Sen. Steve Vick, R- Dalton Gardens, said the bill’s intent was to provide equity to all legislative districts. The legislation contained no language that increased the number of signatures required and didn’t require signatures to be gathered from every county, simply from every district.
The Idaho Republican Caucus Released a statement on Monday expressing their disappointment with Court’s 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.”
As the Court has ruled against the law created by Senate Bill 1110, the old provisions are restored to the previous signature-gathering requirements of 6% of voters in 18 legislative districts to get an initiative on a ballot.