Gov. Little signs bill making it harder to bring voter initiatives onto ballots

Ian Max Stevenson
·2 min read

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed a bill that will make it tougher for voters to bring initiatives onto statewide ballots, according to House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, a Democrat.

“Just got off the phone with the Governor. He signed S1110,” wrote Rubel on Twitter on Saturday morning.

Senate Bill 1110 was passed by the Senate in March and by the House earlier this month. The law will make it significantly harder for voters to get referendums or initiatives on ballots by requiring that 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts sign a petition before it will be accepted by the state. Currently, 6% of voters in only 18 districts are required to sign the petitions, which must also total 6% of voters statewide.

Proponents of the law argue that it will protect rural districts from Idaho’s growing and more populous areas.

“Idaho has an important interest in ensuring that our ballots are not cluttered with initiatives that have not demonstrated sufficient grassroots support,” wrote Little in a Saturday letter to Janice McGeachin, Idaho’s lieutenant governor. “Under current law, an initiative can qualify for the ballot after collecting voter signatures in only a few of Idaho’s more populated, urban areas.”

Opponents of the bill argue that it undermines voter’s rights.

“Idahoans have a constitutional right to initiate legislation independent from the legislature,” said Lauren Bramwell, policy strategist for the ACLU of Idaho, in an April 12 news release. “This bill undermines that right, and will result in costly litigation.”

On April 8, former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones delivered a petition with over 16,000 signatures to the governor, asking him to veto it.

“Signing this bill into law goes against the direct wishes of the will of the people,” said Rialin Flores, executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho, in a Saturday release. The organization joined other groups in a signature campaign to oppose the bill.

In his Saturday letter, the governor said he expects the courts will weigh in.

“Whether Senate Bill 1110 amounts to an impermissible restriction in violation of our constitution is highly fact dependent and, ultimately, a question for the Idaho judiciary to decide,” he wrote.

Due to an emergency clause in the bill, the law will take effect immediately.