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Proposed Idaho initiative ballot measure voted down

Courtesy State of Idaho

The state House has apparently killed a proposal that would have embedded initiative and referendum signature requirements in the state constitution.

A battle over initiatives in Idaho has ended for now.

The state House on Thursday rejected a proposal to put a vote about initiative signatures to the people. Coeur d’Alene Republican Senator Doug Okuniewicz wanted to embed in the constitution a new signature standard for initiatives and referendums. He wanted to require signatures from all 35 legislative districts. That’s the standard the legislature adopted in 2021, but the state Supreme Court rejected it and reinstated the current standard of signatures from 18 districts.

The Senate had already approved the measure and it appeared to be on its way to the governor for his signature and, assuming he signed it, onto the ballot in November 2024. But the bill was derailed on Thursday after Rep. Britt Raybould (R-Rexburg) raised doubts about its language.

“I would argue that the way this language is presented within the memorial, it creates a threshold much higher than I think was intended by the bill’s sponsors," she said. "Instead of roughly 50-some-odd thousand votes being collected in the state, double that would need to be collected to reflect the total number of registered voters in the state, which at the time of the 2022 general election was just over a million.”

Democrats, including Rep. Colin Nash from Boise, believe the intent is to make citizen initiatives technically legal but practically impossible.

“We deserve to be more honest with our voters. If we want to rein in ballot initiative or referendums, we should just do that. We should put that to the voters. Ask them how they feel about retaining this right," he said.

The proposal received a majority vote in the state House, 39-31, but that’s eight short of the two-thirds supermajority needed for a constitutional amendment. With legislative leaders hoping to adjourn for the year today, it’s likely the measure is dead for the session.

Initiative proponents, including Luke Mayville from Reclaim Idaho, which sponsored the successful 2018 ballot measure that expanded Medicaid in Idaho, rejoiced.

"In all honesty, most of us believed it would be a long shot to defeat this amendment on the House floor. But we tried anyway. We left it all on the field, and we pulled off a massive upset," he wrote in an email to supporters.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.