Idaho Dispatch

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Op-Ed: Stop the Assault on Citizen Initiative Rights

By • February 27, 2021

The following Op-Ed was submitted by Reclaim Idaho’s Luke Mayville as part of a “Dueling Op-Ed” regarding ballot initiatives. You can see the other Op-Ed submitted by State Senator Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) here.

Mayville’s submission below:

Last week, Idaho Senator Steve Vick proposed a bill that would make it nearly impossible for Idaho citizens to qualify an initiative for the ballot.

Idaho currently has some of the most restrictive rules in the country when it comes to ballot initiatives. In addition to collecting signatures from 6% of all registered voters in the state, an initiative campaign must also collect signatures from 6% in each of 18 legislative districts.

It’s extremely difficult to qualify an initiative in Idaho. During the 8 years since the 18-district requirement was put in place, 15 initiatives have been attempted but only 2 have met the signature requirements and made the ballot. That means 13 of 15 (87 percent!) of initiative attempts have failed to make the ballot under the current rules.

 But Senator Vick and other politicians are insisting that the citizen initiative process isn’t hard enough and they’re attempting to make the process much, much harder.

Senator Vick’s bill requires signatures from 6% of registered voters in all 35 of Idaho’s legislative districts, up from the 18 districts that are currently required. No other state in the country imposes signature requirements on all state legislative districts. If this bill becomes law, Idaho will have the most restrictive initiative laws of any of the 26 states where initiative rights are protected.

Let’s be clear: Senator Vick’s 35-district requirement is an attempt to make future grassroots initiatives virtually impossible.

In the coming days, we will hear Senator Vick and other politicians falsely claim that this bill would empower rural voters. They’ll claim that rural communities don’t have a voice in our initiative process.

But Idaho’s Medicaid Expansion initiative received signatures from all 44 counties. In fact, the entire campaign began in rural Bonner County and was bolstered by passionate teams of volunteers in rural communities across the state. The initiative received a majority of the vote in 35 of Idaho’s 44 counties, including dozens of rural counties.

The truth is that Senator Vick’s bill has nothing to do with rural voters. It’s an attempt to seize power from ordinary citizens and guarantee that no grassroots citizen initiative ever happens again.

It’s time to remind our legislators that the ballot initiative is the constitutional right of every Idaho citizen. It’s a right that was enshrined in our state constitution over a century ago to give ordinary citizens a voice in their government. Let’s hope our legislators have enough respect for Idaho citizens to reject Senate Bill 1110.

Luke Mayville is co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the organization that spearheaded the successful campaign to expand Medicaid in Idaho. 

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Tags: Ballot Initiative, Dalton Gardens, Luke Mayville, Reclaim Idaho, SB 1110, Steve Vick

2 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Stop the Assault on Citizen Initiative Rights

  1. I disagree. I think this would be a good thing as the most populated area is the north end in Boise and we don’t want them dictating to the rest of the state like Portland does to Oregon.

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