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Coeur d'Alene Senator Pushes Tougher Signature Gathering Requirements For Initiatives

Idaho Public TV screenshot

Idaho’s Senate on Wednesday heard testimony on legislation that would make it more difficult for citizens to place initiatives on statewide ballots.

Sen. Steve Vick’s [R-Dalton Gardens] bill would change the signature gathering requirements. Initiative sponsors currently need to collect signatures from at least 6% of the number of qualified voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts. Vick would require 6% in all 35 districts. He says the goal is to keep signature gatherers from concentrating their efforts in the most populated areas of the state.

“Urban voters and rural voters have different interests in many cases. I think that it’s important that we have that broad spectrum of support for an initiative before it gets on the ballot," he said.

The proposal does not go over well with the people who helped to qualify Idaho’s successful Medicaid expansion initiative for the ballot in 2018. They include Sam Sandmire.

“Idaho’s constitution guarantees citizens the right to make law by ballot initiative and this bill is just another attempt to make it impossible for ordinary citizens to ever get any issue on the ballot," she said.

One supporter of another initiative, which would legalize medical marijuana, say the bill is aimed at that that proposal. It hasn’t yet qualified for the ballot, but supporters say public polling shows it would have a good chance of passing.

The hearing on Vick’s bill will continue Friday morning in the Senate State Affairs Committee. But testimony will only be allowed from people who were signed up before the hearing was suspended.