The Idaho Legislature altered ballot measure rules earlier this year, making a successful petition campaign more difficult to achieve. Starting July 1, when Senate Bill 1108 goes into effect, it will be harder for Idahoans to gather enough signatures to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot. Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter signed a bill into law on April 2 thatwill require petitioners to gather six percent of registered voters’ signatures from a minimum of 18 districts. Currently, petitioners must collect six percent of registered voters’ signature statewide. SB 1108 originally required each signature sheet to be separated by legislative district, but the statehouse quickly pushed through Senate Bill 1191 last month to remove that stipulation.
In Idaho, ballot measures, which include initiatives and referendums, give citizens a chance to bring legislation to a public vote. Initiatives allow citizens to vote on changing or implementing laws, and referendums allow citizens to bring to public vote a statute that was already passed by the legislature.
In 2012, for only the second time in Idaho, three referendums repealed laws that the Idaho State Legislature had enacted. Props 1, 2 and 3 overturned the education reform laws, commonly known as the “Luna Laws” after Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Petitioners gathered the required number of signatures to put the referendums on the ballot over a month in advance of the deadline.
“But this has nothing to do with those,” Sen. Marv Hagedorn said. Hagedorn is the Republican senator from legislative District 14 which covers Eagle, Star and north Meridian. He voted in favor of the bill during the 25-10 Senate vote. “We’ve been working on it for years. It just so happens no one has been able to come up with a solution until now,” he said, referring to a 1997 law that a federal court overturned in 2001. That earlier bill required six percent of signatures from 22 counties in Idaho, but was found to be unconstitutional because counties are not divided by population.