The Idaho Supreme Court today [Tuesday] heard a challenge to the state’s tough new initiative signature law. It requires sponsors of ballot measures to collect signatures from every corner of the state. The sponsors say that makes it nearly impossible to qualify a measure for a vote.
The challenge to the new law is brought by the group Reclaim Idaho, which was represented in court by Deborah Ferguson. Reclaim Idaho sponsored the Medicaid expansion initiative approved by voters in 2018. At that time, sponsors needed signatures from six-percent of the voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. The new law requires signatures from all 35 districts.
“In the eight years since the legislature mandated an 18-district requirement, there have been 15 attempts to qualify initiatives for the ballot and only two were able to make that very difficult standard. That’s close to a 90% failure rate on the old standard," she said.
Ferguson argued the new standard is impossible to meet and therefore it takes away the people’s constitutional right to self governance through the initiative process.
Supporters of the new law dismiss that. They say it simply ensures that before an initiative goes to a vote that its sponsors can demonstrate it has support in all parts of the state. Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrondo, arguing for the state, said the expiring law makes it too easy to place an initiative on the ballot.
“A measure could qualify for the ballot with the support in just four counties because four counties contain 18 legislative districts and those four counties contain 56% of the population, of the registered voters," she said.
The justices took the case under advisement and will issue a ruling later this year.