The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled a new law that makes it more difficult to place citizen initiatives on the ballot is unconstitutional.
The law approved by the legislature this year requires initiative sponsors to gather signatures from at least 6% of the registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.
The previous standard was 6% in 18 legislative districts.
Supporters justified the new law by saying initiative sponsors could have qualified a measure for the ballot by collecting signatures without leaving Idaho’s four most populous counties. Requiring signatures in all districts, they argued, gives rural voters more influence in what eventually makes the ballot.
Luke Mayville from Reclaim Idaho, which sponsored the successful Medicaid expansion initiative in 2018, says the new standard was next to impossible to achieve. He said that essentially takes away the people’s right to initiative. The court agreed by a 5-0 vote, saying that right is clearly granted in the state constitution.
Mayville’s group was one of the two plaintiffs in the case.
“I had some tears of joy earlier today. I’m thrilled. It’s incredible to know that we can continue to use this initiative process that Idahoans have used throughout," he said.
At one time, there were no district requirements for signature gathering and Mayville’s lawsuit asked that the state go back to that. The court said no, reestablishing what the state law was before the new standards were imposed, six percent of registered voters in 18 legislative districts.
Mayville says Reclaim Idaho has already begun collecting signatures for a new initiative. It would require the state to invest more than $300 million a year in K-12 education.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, one of the defendants of the overturned law, said he’s disappointed with the decision. He argued the new law would have increased voter involvement and participation.