The Senate State Affairs Committee held a lively hearing this morning on SB 1108, the bill from the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation to make it tougher to qualify initiatives or referenda measures for the Idaho ballot; it's scheduled to continue on Monday. The AP reports that the Farm Bureau got an earful from foes of the measure. The bill would require signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 of Idaho's 35 legislative districts, where the current law just requires 6 percent of voters statewide.
Farm Bureau lobbyist Russ Hendricks said the organization wants to make sure rural residents have a voice in the process, in addition to residents of urban population centers. "This is not in any way meant to denigrate the voters of this state or their judgment," Hendricks said. "In fact, we do not view this as excluding anybody. In fact it is including more people. ... The proponents go out and talk to more people in more areas of the state, so this is a more inclusive bill."
Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, countered that the change places a higher value on voting rights of people in rural areas, violating the U.S. Constitution's one-person, one-vote principle.
Last week, I obtained a report from the Idaho Secretary of State's office showing that had this law been in effect last fall, Propositions 1, 2 and 3 would not have qualified for the November ballot; that report showed the measures met the 6 percent mark in only one legislative district. However, it turns out there was a problem with the data in the report and it was incorrect. A corrected version issued by the Secretary of State's office shows that those measures still would have qualified under this requirement, as they had signatures from more than 6 percent of voters in 29 of the 35 legislative districts. All three propositions were overwhelmingly approved by Idaho voters, repealing the 2011 "Students Come First" school reform laws.