Idaho Dispatch

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Reclaim Idaho’s Lawsuit Would be a Game Changer

By • June 12, 2020

Reclaim Idaho is suing both Governor Little and Secretary of State Lawrence Denney.

In the suit, they claim that the “stay-at-home” order violated their 1st Amendment rights.

At the heart of the issue is Reclaim Idaho’s ballot initiative efforts. Those efforts were stymied by the Department of Health and Welfare’s “stay-at-home” order under the direction of Governor Little in March of this year.

However, what Reclaim is seeking to do in its lawsuit would change everything about the ballot initiative process.

Not only is Reclaim seeking a 48-day extension to try and complete their signature-gathering process, but they also want the ability to do so electronically.

Because of the Coronavirus, large gatherings and door-to-door efforts to gather signatures were not advised under the order. This decision by the state of Idaho made signature gathering all but impossible. Interestingly, it’s not really clear if the state would have done anything to the organization had they simply kept going with their mission and ignored the order.

Enforcement of the order was a hot topic and outside of businesses with state licenses, the state didn’t seem to have any interest in enforcement.

Despite the lack of enforcement, Reclaim suspended its campaign for its “Invest in Idaho” initiative.

Many of the volunteers with Reclaim Idaho, according to their lawsuit, are in an “at-risk” category. A lot of their volunteers who would help with the effort were older in age and more susceptible to having a major reaction to the Coronavirus.

It is unclear whether Reclaim would have made their goal even if the ballot initiative process not been interrupted. 

The initiative would raise the corporate tax rate and taxes on those making $250,000 or more for a single person or $500,000 or more for a couple. The goal was to raise approximately $170 million for education spending.

The Coronavirus and a state government order put an end to the effort and that’s where the lawsuit comes in.

The question is, did Reclaim Idaho’s 1st Amendment rights get violated?

This is a similar argument being made by churches who are upset about the order and also claim that their 1st Amendment rights were violated. There is a lawsuit against Governor Little for that as well.

Courts across the country have been striking down decisions made by Governors who violated the rights of their citizens. Could we see a similar result here in Idaho?

The big game-changer though in the lawsuit is the “electronic” signature gathering request from the organization.

Electronic signature-gathering would speed up the process significantly.

However, Idaho’s ballot initiative process requires that the person signing the petition do so in the presence of the person circulating the petition. It is unclear how Reclaim would gather signatures under that requirement.

The state could argue that the deadline will be extended but that signatures will still have to be gathered in person in a “safe” manner such as sanitizing pens after each use, social distancing, and mask-wearing.

This would significantly hamper Reclaim’s ability to achieve its goal because large gatherings are still not taking place where Reclaim is able to get many of their signatures.

There are concerns among some about electronic signature gathering. 

Brent Regan, Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman, told Idaho Dispatch, “Electronic signature gathering isn’t a thing. There is no provision in law and there is no other state-approved system that uses “electronic signature gathering” so the courts have no system that they can point to and say “use that”. Courts can only order people to do things that are possible. A court can’t tell a person to jump over a 5 story building, Likewise, they cant order the use of electronic signature gathering that conforms to the law when no such thing exists.”

Regan continued with this warning, “The existence of the huge industry of credit card fraud proves that secure online single point identity capture is still a thing of the future.”

In the end, Regan doesn’t believe the case will go anywhere in Idaho’s court system.

I expect this case to be dismissed on the first motion because Little did not issue the original stay home order. The Idaho Director of Health and Welfare issued the stay home order. Recall voluntarily suspended collection activities.”

Time is running out for Reclaim to accomplish its goals if they win their court case.

The November elections are just around the corner. If Reclaim is going to get their issue on the November 2020 ballot, the extension would have to come very quickly.

Reclaim has already successfully passed one ballot initiative when they got Medicaid Expansion through in 2018.

Now, they are hoping their dreams of more education spending from higher taxes won’t be lost because of the Coronavirus.

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Tags: Ballot Initiative, Brad Little, Brent Regan, Coronavirus, Reclaim Idaho

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