Idaho Balks At Settling Ballot Initiative Lawsuit Through Federal Judge's Order

Jun 26, 2020

Idaho’s governor and secretary of state are asking a federal judge to reconsider his decision after he ruled they had violated the constitutional rights of a ballot initiative campaign.

On Wednesday, Judge Lynn Winmill sided with the advocacy group Reclaim Idaho. He said that the governor’s stay at home order in response to the coronavirus hampered the group’s ability to collect signatures for its initiative.

Reclaim Idaho’s latest push would raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations to spend more money on K-12 education.

Given the group’s track record in getting Medicaid expansion on the ballot two years ago and the progress they had already made, Winmill gave the state two options: either put the issue on the ballot in November, or allow Reclaim Idaho to gather signatures online.

Electronic signature gathering is barred by the 24 states and Washington D.C. where ballot initiatives are allowed, though recent court rulings in Colorado and Arkansas have signed off on the practice, at least temporarily.

In a motion filed Friday, which was the deadline Winmill set for the state to choose an option, the attorney general's office said both choices were unlawful and asked Winmill to halt his ruling while it appeals to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Even if a First Amendment violation occurred, which it did not, the Court’s options are beyond what may permissibly be ordered or what is reasonable under these circumstances,” the state wrote.

Instead, it stuck by its original arguments that the group procrastinated and didn’t take full advantage of the 18 months Idaho law allows for signature collecting.

“Reclaim Idaho did not suffer a First Amendment violation here–its injury was caused by its own delay and, as Reclaim Idaho and the Court acknowledge, the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In his ruling from the bench earlier this week, Winmill said procrastination isn’t a preclusion from exercising your constitutional rights.

The judge didn’t immediately issue a response to the request.

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