The Idaho House Wednesday approved a bill that could make it more challenging to get a state-wide initiative on the ballot.
The bill requires that sponsors collect signatures from at least 6% of registered voters in each of the state’s 35 legislative districts. The current standard is 6% in 18 districts.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Addis [R-Coeur d'Alene], says it does not increase the overall number of signatures needed. He says the goal is to ensure that voters in all parts of the state support a measure before it goes to a public vote.
“What it does is spread these signatures to all Idaho districts, both urban and rural, and, on average, this is going to amount to 1,850 signatures per district. Senate Bill 1110 does not require signatures to be gathered in all counties," he said.
But critics, such as Boise Democrat Ilana Rubel, say it sets an unreasonably high bar for initiative sponsors.
“If we made a rule in here that you can’t pass a bill unless you have representatives from all 35 districts voting for it, nobody would say, ‘Wow, what a great way to protect rural voters.’ You would say, ‘Wow, you’re trying to grind the legislative process to a halt’ and you would be right. The same principle applies on ballot initiatives," she said.
Critics say the bill is a direct reaction to the success of a Medicaid expansion initiative Idaho voters approved in 2018 with 64% approval. Others believe it’s an attempt to stop a pending medical marijuana initiative from getting to the ballot.
The Senate has already approved the measure. The governor hasn’t signaled whether he’d sign or veto it if it reaches his desk.
Meanwhile, the founder of the group Reclaim Idaho, which sponsored the Medicaid expansion initiative, says it has filed a new ballot measure. It would roll back the signature gathering requirements to six-percent of the state’s population, without district requirements.