Some bad things happened last week–the bombing by ISIS at the Kabul Airport, Covid cases overwhelming of medical facilities in state after state, snd California wildfires causing air quality problems as far away as Wyoming and Colorado.
So I couldn’t help grasping at a piece of great news–the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in favor of citizens’ initiative and referendum rights.
The legislature has paid $450 an hour to a private attorney–totaling $180,000 by late July–to fight against the Constitutional rights of Idaho citizens. They earned the equivalent of a public spanking and the bill for the opponents’ legal costs.
The Idaho Press quoted Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, as responding, “I’m a little bit surprised that they would rule the way they did and as narrowly as they did, and not give more deference to the legislature and our ability to determine the process for initiatives.”
No, the Court didn’t show ‘deference’ to the legislature’s right to determine the process–they explained the legislative overreach in clear terms. The Constitutional right to initiative and referendum is as fundamental as the right to vote. Although the legislature is responsible for statewide rules governing elections across the state, that doesn’t give them the power to restrict voting to those 35 years and older. SB1110 crossed an important line, especially since its only purpose seems to be to stop public initiatives.
Justices stated that they didn’t see the eight ballot measures (out of 64) qualifying in the 15 years from 1998 to 2013 as creating a need for stricter requirements to get on the ballot. Nor did they see two ballot measures out of 14 qualifying in the last eight years as excessive.
Their words carried a clear warning–if legislators don’t like returning to the restrictions added in 2014, the Court will consider doing away with them also.
The Idaho Press also quoted House Speaker Scott Bedke as being “disappointed at the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision limiting the voice of rural voters.” I doubt even Bedke–or others who parrot that argument–believe it.
The Court obliterated it.
The justices pointed out that rural counties where 6% of the voters had not signed the petitions had voted in favor of expansion–and the right to vote is the goal of an initiative.
Going a step farther, the justices pointed out that requiring 6% of the vote of every legislative district gives veto power to voters of a single district. Opponents could run negative campaigns in one district and stop an initiative. Moreover, any one of Boise’s urban districts could stop an initiative benefitting rural areas.
Voters should be aware that every Republican legislator in Ada and Canyon counties voted for making it more difficult–likely impossible–to get initiatives or referendums on our ballots.
The same legislators who smile and pat your shoulder and swear they are for schools and against taxes want to end voters’ capability to act when they refuse to.
Eight Republicans from around the state did join Democrats in voting against SB 1110—-three in the Idaho Falls/Pocatello area, one in Burley, three in the Lewiston area, and one in the far north.
But not one from Ada and Canyon counties.
Perhaps they figured they’d please the Far Right and trust Governor Little or the Supreme Court to set things right?
Or perhaps they really agree with Republicans who have spoken out like Sen. Christy Zito (R-Hammett). “Ballot initiatives are mob rule with legal protections.” Do our legislators equate majority rule with ‘mob rule’?
Either way, Ada and Canyon voters deserve better.
Idaho deserves better.