Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Idaho Group In Initiative Signature Gathering Case

Jun 23, 2020

A federal court judge in Boise ruled for Reclaim Idaho, a group collecting signatures for a school funding initiative.
Credit U.S. Justice Department

A federal judge in Boise today [Tuesday] ruled in favor of an initiative campaign that wants to require the state to devote more money to public schools.

Judge Lynn Winmill said Reclaim Idaho was on track toward collecting the signatures it needs to put its measure on the ballot when the pandemic hit. He gave the state a choice of two options: allow Reclaim Idaho another 48 days, the time it lost, to collect online signatures, or certify the initiative and place it on the November ballot. He said in-person canvassing isn’t an option because of the increase in cases in parts of the state.

Reclaim Idaho stopped its signature gathering because of the pandemic in mid-March, two days before Governor Little invoked a stay at home order. Its attorney argues the governor and secretary of state have refused to accommodate the group’s requests to recoup the lost signature-gathering time. They argue the state is violating its First Amendment rights by not providing it with a safe way to collect signatures.

The state argued the campaign voluntarily cut short its signature gathering. They argued that extending the signature gathering into the summer will put an unfair burden on election workers who would have to certify the signatures at a time when they’re preparing for August and November elections.

Winmill gave the state until the end of the day Friday to determine which of the two options it prefers. He said, given the short time frame between now and November, he needed to make a decision quickly to allow signature gathering to resume, if that’s the remedy chosen.

Reclaim Idaho wants the legislature to allocate another $170 million for public schools. The measure establishes a mechanism for raising that: setting Idaho’s corporate tax rate at eight-percent and increasing the state’s individual tax rate for people who make more than $250,000 a year.