Idaho Lawmakers Make Initiatives Harder To Reach The Ballot

Apr 7, 2021

A bill making it harder to get an initiative on a statewide ballot has passed both chambers of the Idaho legislature.


Signatures of 6% of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts within an 18-month period are currently required to get an initiative on the ballot.

Senate Bill 1110 increases the requirement to all 35 districts. The bill passed the House Wednesday with a veto-proof majority and now heads to the Governor’s desk. It passed the State Senate March 1, on a near-party line vote.

Had the bill been law three years ago, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) said Medicaid expansion in Idaho would never have reached the ballot box. Proposition 2 passed with 62% support in the November 2018 general election. Leader Rubel called that signature gathering effort - in which she was a participant - the largest in state history.

“If that effort wouldn’t make it under this standard then this standard is not reasonably possible,” Rubel testified on the House floor. “Frankly I think that makes it unconstitutional.”

Sponsoring Rep. Jim Addis (R-Coeur D’Alene) said the Idaho Attorney General has deemed the bill constitutional. Addis and other proponents say rural areas are not appropriately represented in the current process.

“With today’s improvement in communication infrastructure, data collection and analysis capability, it should be much easier to gather these signatures,” Addis said in remarks closing Wednesday’s floor debate.

Immediately following the vote, Reclaim Idaho, the group behind the Medicaid expansion initiative, announced it has filed a ballot initiative which, if successful, would override the legislature and return the initiative process to a previous requirement of 6% of registered voters without regard to district. Reclaim Idaho plans to go forward with its countering initiative campaign, if SB1100 becomes law and survives legal challenges. Five former attorney generals told state lawmakers this week the legislation could end up in court.

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