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Stories about Idaho

Oregon Secretary of State verifies 59,000 signatures for redistricting initiative; courts to decide if it’s enough to qualify

On July 30, 2020, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced that People Not Politicians, the campaign behind the Independent State and Congressional Redistricting Commission Initiative, had submitted 59,493 valid signatures. People Not Politicians submitted its first batch of 64,172 unverified signatures on July 13. The campaign submitted an additional 1,819 signatures on July 17 and 1,063 signatures on July 24 for a total of 67,054 unverified signatures. The signature validity rate for the petition was 88.7%.

A federal judge ruled on July 10 that Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) had to place the measure on the ballot or lower the threshold to 58,789 signatures and extend the signature deadline to August 17. The reduced number of signatures of 58,789 is equal to the required amount for 2018 veto referendum petitions. The original deadline was July 2, and the required number of signatures was 149,360 valid signatures.

People Not Politicians filed the lawsuit against the state seeking relief from the signature deadline and requirements on June 30. The state appealed the federal court’s decision allowing the campaign to submit signatures after the original deadline. On July 23, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Oregon’s request for an emergency stay on the lower court’s ruling.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) filed an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 29 that has not been decided yet. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the lawsuit on August 13. It will also be hearing oral arguments for a similar initiative lawsuit in Idaho on the same day. Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, filed the lawsuit back in June and a federal judge allowed the campaign to gather electronic signatures and have extra time to gather signatures. On July 30, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay on the judge’s order.

The Oregon initiative would amend the Oregon Constitution to establish a 12-member redistricting commission. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will be the third initiative appearing on the November ballot in Oregon. The Oregon Secretary of State certified the Psilocybin Program Initiative and the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative for the ballot after both met the original July 2 deadline and submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (112,020).

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Reclaim Idaho suspends signature drive after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Idaho state officials

On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold a previous ruling allowing for electronic signatures and delaying a signature deadline. The court ruled in favor of Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) and granted an emergency stay on a lower court’s order until the appeal process is finalized. The lower court’s ruling had allowed Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically and extended the signature deadline.

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000; increase the corporate income tax rate; and create and fund the Quality Education Fund.

In a statement posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said, “We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. … Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.”

Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh in granting the emergency stay that applies to all previous lower court orders in the case. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. The published opinion and dissent did not state how Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan voted. The dissenting judges argued that the Court had intervened too early in the appeal process.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “[T]he State is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Right now, the preliminary injunction disables Idaho from vindicating its sovereign interest in the enforcement of initiative requirements that are likely consistent with the First Amendment.” He added, “Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other state to provide for ballot initiatives. And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access.”

In response to the ruling, Governor Little said, “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.”

Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit back in June arguing that the state’s social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A U.S. district judge granted Reclaim Idaho a preliminary injunction that gave the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The governor appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his emergency stay request but expedited the hearing process. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on August 13.

Thirteen of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum featured at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and signature requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.

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U.S. District Court ruled that Idaho must allow Reclaim Idaho to collect electronic signatures or put the group’s initiative on the ballot directly

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.

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Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit seeking more time to gather signatures and permission to use electronic signatures

Reclaim Idaho, sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, filed a lawsuit against Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) 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 it was 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 campaign argued in the lawsuit, which was filed in the District Court of Idaho, that the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights to petition the government. In announcing the lawsuit, Reclaim Idaho said, “We don’t object to the Governor’s actions to protect public health. But the Governor and Secretary of State have a responsibility to provide alternative, safe means for collecting signatures during a deadly pandemic. We should not be forced to choose between public safety and our First Amendment rights to petition our government.”

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 fund the Quality Education Fund.

No Idaho initiative campaigns submitted signatures by the May 1 deadline. Two other ballot measures—the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative and the Medical Marijuana Initiative—cleared for signature gathering by the Idaho Secretary of State. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, both campaigns announced that they were suspending their signature drives prior to the signature deadline.

At least 14 lawsuits challenging ballot measure deadlines and requirements were filed in 11 of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum processes. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.

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Little appoints von Ehlinger to Idaho House of Representatives

Gov. Brad Little (R) appointed Aaron von Ehlinger (R) to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives on June 3. The seat became vacant when late Rep. Thyra Stevenson (R) died on May 11, 2020. Ehlinger will serve the remainder of Stevenson’s unexpired term ending on November 30, 2020.

The appointment, which filled the only current vacancy in the Idaho state legislature, came one day after Ehlinger won the Republican primary in the district on June 2. Stevenson died after ballots were finalized and her name still appeared on the ballot. Ehlinger received 78.1% of the vote to Stevenson’s 21.9%. There were no candidates in the Democratic primary and Ehlinger is running unopposed on Nov. 3.

The current partisan composition of the Idaho House of Representatives is 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats. The Republican Party has held a majority in the state House since 1992. Republicans have held a state government trifecta, or a majority in both chambers of the state legislature plus the governor’s office, since 1995.

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Idaho library district trustees retained in recall election

A recall election seeking to remove four of the five trustees of the Priest Lake Library District board in Idaho was defeated by voters. The effort sought to recall Debbie Sudnikovich, Laurel Smith, Nancy Bushman, and Lori McReynolds after they voted to fire library director Beverly Richmond in September 2019. All four trustees retained their seats.

The election was held by mail-in ballot. Voters had to request their ballots by May 19, 2020, and they had until June 2, 2020, to return their ballots.

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. The May 19 election was then changed to a mail-in ballot election and extended to June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

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Voters in the West Ada School District, Idaho, rejected a ballot measure to renew a $14 million property tax levy

Voters in West Ada School District, located in Ada and Canyon Counties, Idaho, rejected a ballot measure to renew a $14 million per year supplemental property tax levy for the period between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2022. According to results released on June 2, 54 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure.

The two-year supplemental levy has been renewed four times since 2012. The renewal would not have increased the total levy raised by the school district. At the time of the election, the existing total levy rate was $351 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

This measure was put on the ballot for the May 19 election, but the absentee ballot return deadline was delayed to June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which meant results weren’t available until Tuesday.

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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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