Gov. Butch Otter has signed SB 1108 into law, the measure making it tougher to qualify an initiative or referendum measure for the Idaho ballot. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Otter, who signed the bill yesterday. “I agreed with the arguments that it’s an issue for all of Idaho – why shouldn’t all of Idaho be included in it?”
Under current law in Idaho, it takes signatures from 6 percent of registered voters to qualify a measure for the ballot; SB 1108 adds a requirement for 6 percent of the registered voters in each of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation pushed the bill, saying it would preserve the voice of rural areas if animal-rights activists decided to run ballot-measure campaigns.
The bill followed November’s historic voter rejection of the “Students Come First” school reform laws in three referendum measures, the first time since 1936 that Idaho voters had overturned laws passed by the Legislature through a referendum vote. Initiatives have proven only slightly more popular in Idaho; 14 have passed since statehood.
Otter said he didn’t want ballot measures to be driven by “the great state of Ada,” referring to Ada County, home of Boise and the state Capitol and the state’s largest population center. “We’re a government for all of Idaho,” he said. “I think if the initiative has enough support from all over the state, you could get signatures from all over the state.” Meanwhile, a follow-up bill from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa would ease the burden the new law would otherwise place on initiative signature-gatherers by not requiring them to juggle three separate clipboards and petitions in Kootenai County – where there are three legislative districts - nine in Ada, etc., and not requiring voters to know their legislative district to sign, under penalty of law. Instead, county clerks would look up and verify that information; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.