Ballot initiative question advances to the House
By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
After previously being held in committee, a resolution to ask voters if they want to make it harder to get an initiative on the ballot made it out of House State Affairs on Tuesday.
Sen. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden, is sponsoring SJR 101, a joint resolution that would ask voters to amend the Idaho Constitution concerning voter initiatives. An initiative or referendum petition would need signatures from 6% of registered voters in all 35 districts, rather than 18 districts as currently required.
The resolution comes after lawmakers passed an identical bill in 2021. After a court challenge, the Idaho Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional in August 2021.
If the resolution passes the House, the question would be on the November ballot for voters to amend the Constitution.
The non-profit advocacy group Reclaim Idaho, which successfully gathered signatures for Medicaid Expansion in 2018, expressed concern about the legislation on Tuesday morning, before the committee met.
But House State Affairs did not take testimony on the resolution Tuesday, as the committee did that earlier this month.
Okuniewicz did not comment on the amendment in the hearing and the committee had no discussion on the issue.
“But it appears the senator made a serious mistake in the drafting of the amendment,” said Reclaim Idaho in a news release. “Instead of requiring signatures from 6% of votes cast in the last general election, the wording of the amendment sets the standard at 6% of all registered voters. This provision—which appears to be an inadvertent drafting error—has significant consequences for the impact of the amendment. In Idaho elections, the number of people registered to vote is always much greater than the number of people who show up to vote on Election Day. In the most recent general election, only 57% of registered voters showed up to vote.”
The language of the memorial would require “the signatures of legal voters from each legislative district equal in number to at least six percent of the legal voters at the time of the last general election.”
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday if the Attorney General’s Office had weighed in on the issue.
The Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday that petition signatures apply to the number of registered voters at the time of the last election, not the number of votes cast.
Democratic Reps. Brooke Green and John Gannon, both of Boise, voted against advancing the bill.
The resolution must now go before the full House of Representatives.