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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Reclaim Idaho Files Federal Lawsuit To Allow Online Petition Gathering

Luke Mayville, Medicaid for Idaho, Idahoans for Healthcare, Proposition 2
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Luke Mayville, left, speaking to supporters in Idaho Falls in 2018. He and his group have sued state officials after they declined to allow for electronic signature gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reclaim Idaho has sued Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney after they both declined to allow electronic signature gathering for ballot initiatives earlier this year.

The group, which was behind the successful push to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2018, was undertaking another citizen initiative campaign until it suspended its work in March. It had collected about 30,000 of the roughly 55,000 signatures needed.

The “Invest in Idaho” initiative would’ve raised taxes on corporations and the wealthy to spend more money on education.

When the coronavirus pandemic first began, Reclaim Idaho asked both Little and Denney to allow for electronic signature gathering, but was told that wasn’t allowed under state law.

“There wasn’t any part of the government that was willing to take responsibility for providing a safe way to collect signatures,” said Luke Mayville, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho.

“Anything less than that is a violation of our First Amendment rights to petition our government.”

The state legislature was also winding down as the group drafted a bill that would have legalized online petitions, but it was never introduced.

No state in the country currently allows campaigns to gather signatures online. Other groups across the country also suspended their work or scrambled to collect the final few signatures they needed to qualify their initiatives for the ballot.

Even though Idaho is currently in the third phase of Little’s reopening plan and groups of up to 50 people are allowed to gather, simply allowing for a deadline extension wouldn’t be practical with social distancing guidelines still in effect, Mayville said.

“It’s very difficult to collect signatures face-to-face when you need to be six feet apart.”

A spokeswoman for the governor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The secretary of state’s office declined to comment.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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