Reclaim Idaho’s ballot initiative effort has been halted, at least temporarily.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Idaho an emergency stay for Governor Little.
The opinion comes on a 4-2 vote. Justices Roberts, Gorsuch, Alito, and Kavanaugh concurred with the stay while Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented.
For now, Reclaim Idaho will be unable to continue their online signature-gathering process.
Here are a few quotes from Justice Roberts who wrote in favor of the stay:
Second, there is a fair prospect that the Court will set aside the District Court order. INS v. Legalization Assistance Project of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, 510 U. S. 1301, 1304 (1993) (O’Connor, J., in chambers).
This is not a case about the right to vote, but about how items are placed on the ballot in the first place. Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other State to provide for ballot initiatives. See Meyer v. Grant, 486 U. S. 414, 424 (1988). And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access. Even assuming that the state laws at issue implicate the First Amendment, such reasonable, nondiscretionary restrictions are almost certainly justified by the important regulatory interests in combating fraud and ensuring that ballots are not cluttered with initiatives that have not demonstrated sufficient grassroots support. See Buckley, 525 U. S., at 204–205. The State’s established verification procedure is no empty formality. In Idaho’s largest county, clerks reject about 30 to 40 percent of signatures at this stage.
While a stay may preclude this particular initiative from appearing on the ballot this November, that consequence is attributable at least in part to Reclaim Idaho, which “delayed unnecessarily” its pursuit of relief until more than a month after the deadline for submitting signatures.
In Robert’s full opinion, he says that while the appeal in the 9th Circuit is not completely done, Idaho wanted the Supreme Court to step in anyway. Roberts says that the Supreme Court was already going to bring the case based on several factors that he said the state of Idaho met in getting the stay in place.
It is unclear how all the judges would come down on a full Supreme Court hearing since this was only a request to grant a stay to Governor Little and the state of Idaho.
Here are a few quotes from Justice Sotomayor who wrote the dissenting opinion:
Yet again, this Court intervenes to grant a stay pending appeal, in this case less than two weeks before the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is poised to hear an expedited appeal on a preliminary injunction entered by the District Court.1 That injunction requires the State of Idaho to accommodate delays and risks introduced by the COVID–19 pandemic by extending the deadline for accepting ballot-initiative signatures and permitting digital collection of signatures. The State claims that it requires immediate intervention from this Court because, absent a stay, it must expend time and resources verifying digital signatures in advance of the extended signature-submission deadline.
But the equities do not favor the State, at least not yet.
The stay granted today puts a halt to their signature-collection efforts, meaning that even if respondents ultimately prevail on appeal, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to collect enough qualifying signatures by any reasonable deadline for the November ballot.2 In other words, the delay occasioned by this Court’s stay likely dooms to mootness respondents’ First Amendment claims before any appellate court has had the chance to consider their merits (and, indeed, before this Court has had the chance to consider any potential petition for certiorari)
Justice Sotomayor said in the full dissenting opinion that the Supreme Court was too quick to grant the stay and should have waited longer and let the 9th Circuit first determine if the District Court judge was wrong.
Sotomayor says that the delay in Reclaim Idaho’s efforts are going to harm them if they end up winning the appeal in the end because the group’s ability to gather signatures is under a timeline. Since August 11th is still nearly two weeks away, this delay significantly cut into their time to gather signatures.
Idaho Dispatch has reached out to Governor Little and Reclaim Idaho for statements on the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay on signature gathering for the ballot initiative.
Governor Little has released the following statement:
I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes. 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. This is a challenging time, and I am grateful for the work of our election officials who are preparing to conduct free and safe elections this fall in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Update: Luke Mayville, Founder of Reclaim Idaho, has released the following statement which reads in part:
I have very bad news to share. The United States Supreme Court has decided to block our signature drive, and their decision is harsher and more damaging to our campaign than anyone anticipated.
Before today’s ruling, we anticipated that the court would either rule in our favor and allow our drive to continue, or rule against us and block our drive only temporarily. We anticipated that by ruling against us, the court would merely obstruct our process for the few weeks prior to our next court hearing in the 9th Circuit, scheduled for mid-August.
Instead, the Court decided to place a stay on our signature drive that will last not only two weeks, but very likely all the way up until the November election, thereby making it impossible for us to qualify our initiative for the ballot.
We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. It is deeply disheartening that the highest court in our nation has decided to clamp down on a grassroots campaign in Idaho—a campaign made up of thousands of ordinary citizens who are simply trying to make Idaho a better place for their children and grandchildren.
The path ahead is uncertain. But with the Court’s decision, and with the Governor and Secretary of State determined to block our efforts, it is highly unlikely that our initiative will see the November ballot. Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.
If you wish to read Mayville’s full statement you can do so here.
Do you believe the Supreme Court did the right thing today or did they move too quickly to grant the stay?
Let us know in the comments below.
Tags: Ballot Initiative, Reclaim Idaho, Roberts, Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court