The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked an Idaho ballot initiative campaign from collecting online signatures for the foreseeable future, putting the group’s entire effort in jeopardy.
Three of the court’s conservatives joined Chief Justice John Roberts Thursday in halting Reclaim Idaho’s efforts to qualify its education funding initiative for the November ballot.
The group’s campaign would’ve hiked taxes on corporations and the wealthy to boost cash for schools across the state.
“We are shocked that the court has chosen to intervene in the normal judicial procedure and that they have decided not to let the normal appellate procedure run its course,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville.
That’s because the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t just halt the campaign until the 9th Circuit can hear the case. It blocks online signature gathering until the case reaches the Supreme Court, which could be after the November election.
“The path ahead is uncertain for us now, but regardless of whether those in power continue to block our efforts, we at Reclaim Idaho are going to keep working to secure adequately funded schools in our state,” Mayville said.
In June, federal district court Judge Lynn Winmill ruled in favor of Reclaim Idaho, saying the governor had violated its First Amendment rights by not allowing it to safely collect signatures amid the pandemic.
Winmill gave the state two choices: either allow for electronic signature gathering, or put the initiative on the November ballot. The state chose neither, saying each would violate Idaho’s election laws, and appealed.
The 9th Circuit will take up the case Aug. 13 in an expedited hearing, but declined to block Reclaim Idaho’s ability to collect signatures.
Chief Justice Roberts criticized Winmill’s injunction, calling it “transformative and intrusive” and that it changed the state’s initiative process.
While the Supreme Court’s decision may prevent the initiative from appearing on the November ballot, Roberts laid part of the blame “at least in part” on the Reclaim Idaho’s delay in filing its lawsuit.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. They wrote the decision makes it “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for the group to get enough signatures to put the issue to voters, even if the group prevails in court.
In a statement, Gov. Brad Little said he was “pleased” with the decision.
“It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho,” Little said.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio
Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.