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Stories about Idaho

Idaho enacts new congressional and state legislative maps

On Nov. 12, 2021, the Idaho Independent Redistricting Commission formally submitted its final congressional and state legislative maps to the secretary of state, enacting new maps for the state’s two U.S. House districts and 35 legislative districts.

The commission voted in favor of the final versions of both the congressional and state legislative maps on Nov. 5 but chose to recast their votes on Nov. 10 due to concerns regarding Idaho’s open meetings laws.

The six commissioners—three appointed by Democrats and three by Republicans—voted 4-2 in favor of the final congressional map. Nels Mitchell and Dan Schmidt, both Democratic appointees, voted against the map, saying they opposed its division of Ada County, the state’s most populous, into two districts. Ada County was split between two districts following the 2010 census.

Mitchell said, “there is a statute on the books that says we’re not supposed to split counties if we don’t have to, and I don’t believe we had to.” Commissioner Bart Davis, who supported the map, said, “there were honest disagreements on the congressional plan … and that’s the reason we have a commission of six, is to allow us to think about it and challenge each other’s thinking.”

The commission voted 6-0 in favor of the new state legislative district maps. Idaho has 35 legislative districts, which each elects one senator and two representatives.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R) said, “The Idaho House Republican Caucus is not entirely thrilled with the new reapportionment of Idaho’s legislative map,” adding that, “highly qualified and established legislators may be forced to campaign against equally skilled former colleagues.”

Idaho Ed News’ Kevin Richert estimated that the new legislative maps could result in six House races and five Senate races where incumbents would face re-election against one another.

Commissioner Schmidt said, “We’ve tried to do our best to balance the interests and the needs of the communities we are working with and the law that is before us,” adding, “We went into this process knowing that our task could not make everybody happy, and we don’t expect it will.”

As of Nov. 12, 2021, 12 states had enacted congressional maps following the 2020 census and 17 had completed state legislative redistricting. At that time in 2011, following the 2010 census, 26 states had finished congressional redistricting and 29 had finished state legislative redistricting.



Lori McCann appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives

Governor Brad Little (R) appointed Lori McCann (R) on May 17 to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives. The seat has been vacant since April 29, when former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R) resigned.

McCann’s professional experience includes working as a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, where she was also the director of the paralegal and legal assistant programs. McCann also worked as a paralegal at her family’s law firm and helped manage her family’s property and livestock business.

As of May 20, there have been 48 state legislative vacancies in 28 states so far this year. Thirty-one (31) of those vacancies have been filled. McCann is one of 15 Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.

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Recall elections defeated in 2 Idaho school districts

Two Idaho school districts held recall elections for school board members on May 18. In Idaho Falls School District 91, voters were asked if they wanted to recall Zone 3 representative Lara Hill, and in the Nampa School District, they were asked if they wanted to recall Zone 4 representative Kim Rost. Both recall efforts were defeated.

In order for recalls to be approved in Idaho, a majority of voters must cast ballots in favor. The total number of votes cast in favor of recall must also be higher than the number of votes cast for the official in his or her last election. In Nampa, a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of recalling Hill, but they did not meet the 591-vote threshold to remove her from office. In Idaho Falls, a majority of voters cast ballots against the recall.

The effort to recall Hill began after the Idaho Falls board of trustees voted 3-2 on Sept. 30 to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction to a mixture of in-person and online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent George Boland said the goal was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. Hill voted in favor along with Elizabeth Cogliati and Hillary Radcliffe. 

Recall supporters also attempted to remove Cogliati and Radcliffe. The effort against Radcliffe did not collect enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot. The effort against Cogliati was on the ballot on March 9. A majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, defeating the effort.

Supporters of the effort to recall Rost said she was not representing the majority of her constituents in the Nampa School District and had demonstrated a lack of leadership. Rost said her volunteer service for the district had been unwavering for 16 years and that transparency and accountability had been at the forefront of her goals as a trustee. 

A separate recall effort was on the ballot in the Nampa School District on March 9. The recall asked whether voters wanted to remove Zone 2 representative Mike Kipp from office. A majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, defeating the effort.

Hill was first appointed to the five-member Idaho Falls board of trustees in September 2018 and was later elected in November 2019. Rost was elected to a four-year term on the five-member Nampa board of trustees on May 16, 2017.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 227 recall efforts against 279 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Voters in two Idaho school districts to decide recall elections on May 18

Two Idaho school districts are holding recall elections for two school board members on May 18. In Idaho Falls School District 91, voters will be asked if they want to recall Zone 3 representative Lara Hill, and in the Nampa School District, they will be asked if they want to recall Zone 4 representative Kim Rost.

In order for recalls to be approved in Idaho, a majority of voters must cast ballots in favor. The total number of votes cast in favor of recall must also be higher than the number of votes cast for the official in his or her last election.

The effort to recall Hill began after the Idaho Falls board of trustees voted 3-2 on Sept. 30 to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction to a mixture of in-person and online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent George Boland said the goal was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. Hill voted in favor along with Elizabeth Cogliati and Hillary Radcliffe.

Recall supporters also attempted to remove Cogliati and Radcliffe. The effort against Radcliffe did not collect enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot. The effort against Cogliati was on the ballot on March 9. A majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, defeating the effort.

Supporters of the effort to recall Rost said she was not representing the majority of her constituents in the Nampa School District and had demonstrated a lack of leadership. Rost said her volunteer service for the district had been unwavering for 16 years and that transparency and accountability had been at the forefront of her goals as a trustee. 

A separate recall effort was on the ballot in the Nampa School District on March 9. The recall asked whether voters wanted to remove Zone 2 representative Mike Kipp from office. A majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, defeating the effort.

Hill was first appointed to the five-member Idaho Falls board of trustees in September 2018 and was later elected in November 2019. Rost was elected to a four-year term on the five-member Nampa board of trustees on May 16, 2017.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 227 recall efforts against 279 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Aaron von Ehlinger resigns from Idaho House of Representatives

Idaho state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger resigned on April 29 after the Idaho House Ethics and Policy Committee found his “conduct unbecoming” of a representative and voted unanimously to recommend his immediate suspension and expulsion from the House. 

Von Ehlinger said in his resignation letter, “I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing of which I have been accused in this matter, let alone any violation of any law, rule, or policy of the state of Idaho or of this body.”

Representative Wendy Horman (R) said, “His behavior has poisoned the reputation of all of us and tarnished and discredited other elected officials who serve.”

Von Ehlinger was appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives to represent District 6A by Gov. Brad Little (R) on June 3, 2020.

If there is a vacancy in the Idaho State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 15 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signs bill increasing initiative signature distribution requirements

On April 17, Gov. Brad Little (R) signed Senate Bill 1110. The bill changed the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiative and veto referendum signature petitions to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts instead of the previous requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts.

With SB 1110 signed into law, Idaho joined Utah and South Dakota in passing bills restricting the states’ initiative processes so far in 2021.

Ballotpedia has tracked 124 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 states in 2021 legislative sessions. Approved bills include significant changes that would make it harder to qualify or pass ballot measures in Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah. Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement or distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, and pay-per-signature bans.

In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed, but Gov. Little vetoed, a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. The legislature did not override Gov. Little’s vetoes in 2019.

In 2021, both chambers of the legislature passed SB 1110 by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto: 26-9 in the Senate and 51-18 in the House.

Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit against SB 1110 and filed an initiative designed to repeal the bill. Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “This makes citizen initiatives virtually impossible in Idaho. Under this legislation, we’re not likely to see another initiative like Medicaid expansion from 2018 or like the term limits initiative from the 1990’s. So we are very disappointed with Governor Little. […] This fight is not over because this legislation is clearly unconstitutional, and our organization, Reclaim Idaho, has decided to file a lawsuit and to ask the courts to strike down this legislation and to protect the citizen initiative rights of all the people of Idaho.”

Representative Sage Dixon (R) supported SB 1110. Dixon said, “Every district in Idaho should be represented in that process. This is an effort to protect the voice of everybody in Idaho in the lawmaking process, very similar to what we do here as representatives, and what the senators do as well.”

Governor Little’s statement on SB 1110 wrote, “whether senate bill 1110 amounts to an impermissible restriction in violation of our constitution is highly fact-dependent and, ultimately, a question for the Idaho judiciary to decide. I also expect the federal courts may be called to determine whether senate bill 1110 violates the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”



Idaho voters to decide in 2022 if the legislature can call itself into special session

The Idaho State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow lawmakers to call a special legislative session. The measure would authorize the president pro tempore of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House to convene a special session of the Idaho State Legislature upon receiving a joint written request from 60% of the members of each chamber. The special session called by the state legislature would have to start no later than 15 days after a written request is received. The special legislative session would be restricted to the subjects specified in the written request from legislators. The amendment would also require organizational legislative sessions on the first Thursday of December following a general election.

Currently, only the governor is authorized to call the state legislature into a special session regarding a specified subject.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states authorize the governor or the state legislature to call a special session, and 14 states authorize only the governor to do so.

Kentucky voters will be voting on a similar ballot measure in 2022 that would extend the power to call a special legislative session from solely the governor to the House speaker and the Senate president.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before Idaho voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Idaho State Senate and the Idaho House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 102 on Feb. 26, 2021. On March 3, the state Senate passed SJR 102 in a vote of 24-11. On April 20, the state House approved the amendment in a vote of 54-15 with one absent. All but seven Republican legislators voted in favor of the amendment, and all Democratic legislators voted against the change.

The amendment is the first ballot measure certified in Idaho for the 2022 ballot. Between 1996 and 2020, 27 of the 37 ballot measures appearing on Idaho ballots were approved by voters.

So far, 25 statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 15 states.

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Recall elections to be held in 3 Idaho school districts

Recall elections in three Idaho school districts—Pocatello-Chubbuck, Idaho Falls, and Nampa—are scheduled for March 9, 2021. Five board members are facing recall across the three districts.

  1. Three school board members—Zone 1 representative Jackie Cranor, Zone 2 representative Janie Gebhardt, and Zone 5 representative Dave Mattson—will be on the ballot in the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District. The recall effort began in September 2020 after the board unanimously voted to continue using a hybrid teaching model for middle school and high school students for the remainder of the first trimester of the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recall supporters said the board was not fully representing the electorate on the issue of hybrid learning and other topics. The school district released a statement saying that the board weighs a number of factors when making decisions and that majority opinion does not always rule.
  2. In the Idaho Falls School District, Zone 4 representative Elizabeth Cogliati is on the ballot. The recall effort began after the board of trustees voted 3-2 on September 30, 2020, to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction five days a week to a mix of in-person and online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cogliati voted in favor of the change in instruction along with two other board members who were also targeted for recall. Those other recall efforts did not make the March 9 ballot. Superintendent George Boland said the goal for the change in instruction was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. Recall supporters said the district’s online classes were low quality and putting students at a disadvantage.
  3. In the Nampa School District, Zone 2 representative Mike Kipp is on the ballot. The recall effort started after Kipp cast the sole dissenting vote against allowing sports to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recall supporters said that they were not being represented on the board and that their voices had not been heard at board meetings on multiple occasions. In response to the recall effort, Kipp said, “I have done my best to listen well to all input from teachers, students, patrons, our superintendent, other district leaders and all relevant experts. I then seek to utilize that information in determining my vote.”

In order for the recall elections to be successful, two things must happen: 1) a majority of voters must vote in favor of the recall; and 2) the total number of votes cast in favor of recall must be equal or greater than the number of votes that first put the board member in office.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 224 recall efforts against 269 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Judge rules Idaho school board recall qualifies for ballot

A district court judge ruled on February 22, 2021, that a recall effort against Idaho Falls School District 91 board of trustees member Lara Hill had successfully qualified for the ballot. A recall election against board member Elizabeth Cogliati is already scheduled for March 9.

The recall effort against Cogliati and Hill began after the board of trustees voted 3-2 on September 30, 2020, to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction five days a week to a mixture of in-person instruction two days a week and online instruction the other three days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cogliati and Hill voted in favor of the change in instruction along with trustee Hillary Radcliffe, while trustees Paul Haacke and Larry Haws voted against it.

Superintendent George Boland said the goal for the change in instruction was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. The school district had reported 90 coronavirus cases among students and staff between the beginning of the school year and October 9, 2020. Recall supporters said the district’s online classes were low quality and putting students at a disadvantage.

The recall effort initially sought to recall all three board members who voted in favor of changing to hybrid instruction. The effort against Radcliffe did not collect enough signatures and did not submit the petition by the deadline.

Signatures for the recall of Hill and Cogliati were both submitted on December 28, 2020. The Bonneville County Clerk’s Office verified enough signatures to put the recall against Cogliati on the ballot but found that the petition against Hill did not have enough valid signatures. Recall supporters filed a lawsuit against the county clerk, alleging that nine signatures that had been rejected should have been verified. The court ruled in favor of the recall supporters.

Hill’s recall election had not been scheduled as of February 24. After March 9, the next county election dates scheduled are May 18 and August 31.

Recall efforts against school board members started in three other school districts in Idaho in 2020. All of the efforts named their school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for recall. The effort in the West Ada school district did not go to a vote but saw two members resign from their positions. The recall effort against Aaron Proctor in the Whitepine School District went to the ballot on November 3 and was approved with 57% of the vote, resulting in Proctor’s removal from office. The recall effort against three board members in the Pocatello-Chubbuck school district was approved for the ballot, and the elections were scheduled for March 9.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Idaho Supreme Court justice announces retirement

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick is retiring on June 30, 2021. He was appointed to this position in 2003 by Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and retained by voters in 2004, 2010 and 2016. His current term would have expired in January 2023. Burdick’s replacement will be Republican Governor Brad Little’s first appointment to the supreme court. 

Under Idaho law, the Idaho Judicial Council selects supreme court justices to fill vacancies. When a seat on the court becomes vacant, the commission submits two to four names to the governor to determine the replacement. The justice selected by the governor will complete Justice Burdick’s term which ends in January 2023. A nonpartisan election to elect a justice for the next six-year term will be held in May 2022.

Following Burdick’s retirement, the Idaho Supreme Court will include the following members:

G. Richard Bevan – appointed by Gov. Butch Otter (R) in 2017.

Gregory W. Moeller – appointed by Gov. Butch Otter (R) in 2018.

Robyn Brody – elected in 2016 to an open seat on the court.

John R. Stegner – appointed by Gov. Butch Otter (R) in 2018.

Before Burdick’s retirement, a Republican governor appointed four justices to fill vacancies on the court and one justice was elected. The state of Idaho holds nonpartisan elections for seats on the supreme court. 

In 2020, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 91.5% of the cases they heard. Justices dissented in 12 of the 140 cases heard by the court and ruled unanimously in the other 128.

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