On June 23, 2020, United States District Court Judge Lynn Winmill ruled that Idaho officials must do one of two things: (a) allow Reclaim Idaho, sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically, or (b) place the ballot initiative on the November ballot themselves. Judge Winmill concluded that the state restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus infringed on petitioners’ First Amendment rights to place an initiative on the ballot.
Luke Mayville, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “This court decision is a major victory for the kids of Idaho, for the working families of Idaho who want to give their kids a chance to succeed and, maybe more than anything, this decision is a major victory for the constitutional right of every Idaho citizen to petition their government.” The campaign had collected 30,000 signatures out of the 55,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot before suspending its campaign in March.
The judge gave state officials until Friday to decide how the state would proceed. Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) responded to the ruling in a statement saying, “This decision is a surprising exercise of judicial activism. We plan to appeal this decision immediately.”
Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to grant the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The campaign announced on March 18 that they were suspending its signature drive. The 48-day extension equals the number of days between the date the campaign suspended its signature drive and the original May 1 signature deadline.
The measure was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000, increase the corporate income tax rate, and create and funded the Quality Education Fund.
Twelve of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum feature at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and requirements. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.
- Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020