Stories about Idaho

Idaho state representative dies

Idaho State Representative Thyra Stevenson (R)—who represented District 6A—died on May 11. She had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack May 4. Stevenson held her district’s seat from 2012 to 2014 and from 2016 until her death.

Stevenson was running for re-election to a fourth term in the state House against Aaron von Ehlinger. Because she died after the ballot was finalized, Stevenson’s name will still appear on the Republican primary ballot. No Democratic candidates filed to run in this district.

Idaho’s primary elections were originally scheduled to take place on May 19. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Gov. Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that the election would take place entirely by mail. Under this revised procedure, mail-in ballots must be returned by June 2.

Idaho state law requires the governor to fill vacancies in the state legislature by appointment. The Republican committee in the 6th District has 15 days from the date on which the vacancy occurred—May 26—to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor. The governor is then responsible for selecting a new representative from the list. Stevenson’s seat is the only current vacancy in the majority-Republican state House.

Four of five trustees up for recall in Idaho library district

A recall election seeking to remove four of the five trustees of the Priest Lake Library District board in Idaho is on the ballot on May 19, 2020. Trustees Debbie Sudnikovich, Laurel Smith, Nancy Bushman, and Lori McReynolds were targeted for recall after they voted to fire library director Beverly Richmond in a 4-1 vote in September 2019.

Rosemary Yocum, leader of the recall effort and a former trustee of the library district board, said the trustees violated state law because they fired Richmond without cause. Yocum said Richmond was not an at-will employee and that the board broke statutes governing open meetings and executive sessions. The recall petition also said that the four trustees had treated district citizens in a condescending manner and had failed to fulfill their duties of office.

In her response to the recall, McReynolds said Richmond was an at-will employee. She said their decision was made with the best interest of the community in mind. Sudnikovich said the former library director had been under review since November 2018 prior to her being let go. She said improvements to employee morale and the library’s management and atmosphere reinforced that “the decision to terminate the former director was both reasonable and appropriate.”

The recall effort was initially approved for the March primary ballot, but it was taken off after an order from the district board did not get filed in time for that election. It was instead scheduled for May 19.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Deadline for Idaho 2020 ballot initiatives passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures

The signature deadline for citizen initiatives in Idaho targeting the 2020 ballot passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures. Petitioners needed to gather 55,057 valid signatures, which is equal to 6 percent of the number of registered voters as of the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement requiring signatures equal at least 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts.

Three ballot initiatives—the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, and the Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative—were cleared for signature gathering by the Idaho Secretary of State. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all three campaigns announced that they were suspending their signature drives prior to the signature deadline.

In Idaho, petitioners have 18 months to collect signatures after the ballot title has been granted. Signatures may not be collected after April 30 of the year in which the measure would appear on the ballot. This means that proponents of citizen initiatives that did not make the ballot in 2020 must start the initiative process over for the 2022 election cycle and collect a new number of signatures determined by the number of registered voters at the 2020 election.

The Idaho Require 35 Legislative Districts Amendment is the only ballot measure certified to appear on the November 3 ballot. It was referred by the state legislature on March 4. The amendment would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 districts and, instead, require the state to have 35 state legislative districts. Currently, the Idaho State Senate contains 35 Senators, who are elected from 35 districts. The Idaho House of Representatives consists of 70 Representatives, who are elected from the same 35 districts, with two being elected from each constituency.

A total of 36 measures appeared on the Idaho ballot between 1996 and 2018, 72 percent of which were approved. From 1996 to 2018, an average of three ballot measures appeared on the ballot in even-numbered years.

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