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Idaho Governor Signs Initiative Signature Gathering Bill

Idaho Public TV screenshot

Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed into law a bill that changes the signature requirements for citizen ballot initiatives.

The bill requires signatures from six-percent of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts in order to quality a measure for the ballot, an increase from the current 18 districts. Its authors say they want to make sure that measures that are popular with urban people aren’t forced upon rural voters.

Opponents had mounted a phone and Twitter campaign to encourage the governor to veto it. They were especially encouraged by the governor’s veto Friday of two bills that limit the governor’s authorities during emergencies.

Not long after the five-day deadline for Little to act on the bill, two Democratic legislators announced on Twitter that the governor told them he had signed it into law. Rep. Ilana Rubel [D-Boise] tweeted that she’s “disappointed he chose only to protect executive power and not the people’s power. Let’s hope the Courts take voters’ rights seriously.”

“In the face of massive public opposition to thislegislation, the governor has turned his back on thepeople and sided with special-interest groups,” said Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, which is the group behind the successful Medicaid expansion ballot measure in 2018.

Mayville says his group will file a legal challenge to the law. "This anti-initiative legislation isunconstitutional,” he said. “It makes it virtually impossible for everyday citizens to exercise theirinitiative rights.

He says he has also filed a new initiative that seeks to roll back the signature gathering requirements to take away the district requirements.

Idaho is one of 26 states that allow citizen-initiated ballot measures. Sen. Steve Vick [R-Coeur d'Alene] says the measure does not require sponsors to collect more signatures, nor does it require people from every county to sign.