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News >  Idaho

Ballot Help Sign Of The Times Initiative Backers Increasingly Turn To Professionals To Gather Signatures

Saying his volunteers are “getting older and tireder,” anti-tax activist Ron Rankin has hired a professional signature-gathering firm to help qualify his tax-limiting One Percent Initiative for the ballot.

“We cannot take the chance on getting down into next year and not having the signatures we need,” Rankin said.

In 1994, Rankin fell 1,500 signatures short and his initiative didn’t make the ballot. This time around, 10,000 more signatures are required. Plus, there’s competition from at least six other initiatives.

Rankin’s Idaho State Property Owners Association has hired National Voter Outreach, a Nevada-based group that has circulated petitions for campaigns in more than two dozen states. “They’re going to get us 25,000 signatures in the 2nd Congressional District,” which covers southern Idaho, Rankin said. “We’re doing the rest with volunteers.”

It’ll take more than 41,000 signatures to get an initiative onto the 1996 Idaho ballot. That’s 10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

In its literature, National Voter Outreach claims that 40 percent of the successful initiative and referendum ballot issues in 1994 used its service.

Rankin’s group will pay $37,000 for the professional help.

Professional signature-gathering has been a rarity in Idaho initiative campaigns, but it was used successfully in 1994 by backers of the term limits initiative. Idahoans for Term Limits spent more than $50,000 of mostly out-of-state money to get its measure onto the Idaho ballot. Most of the money came from U.S. Term Limits Inc., a Washington, D.C., group.

Political analyst Randy Stapilus said, “These firms that do this kind of signature-gathering can be very effective. But I also think that anyone who has an idea that really could get widespread support in this state, and starts early enough and is willing to put a lot of work into it, can get their measure on the ballot.”

Sponsors of other proposed 1996 initiatives said they’re relying on volunteers. Union members and other groups have been taking petitions around for the measure that would raise the minimum wage, said Sam Greer of the Idaho AFL-CIO.

Kelly Johannsen, executive director of the Idaho Citizens Alliance, said her group hasn’t turned to paid signature-gatherers, but might in the future. “We’ll always entertain that option if necessary to get the signatures that way,” she said. “We’ve finished up our fairs, and we’re very happy with the response.”

The ICA has had slower going this year with four initiatives instead of one. Its anti-gay rights initiative narrowly failed in 1994. This year, Johannsen said a similar measure is drawing more signatures than the group’s other initiatives on abortion, teachers unions and tax credits.

The ICA plans a 10-day statewide drive in late October to gather names, she said.

Rankin said his volunteers have collected about 14,000 valid signatures for the One Percent Initiative so far, and he’s raised about $20,000 for the professional help. He sent letters to all those who filed property tax assessment appeals in Kootenai County; did a mailing to lakeshore property owners on Payette Lake, where assessments soared; and plans mailings to people who filed appeals in Bonneville County.

“Those are pretty darn good fundraising sources,” he said.

Rankin said he spent $13,000 on a temporary employment firm in the last election for last-minute help carrying petitions outside post offices. The ICA also used some paid signature-gatherers, Johannsen said, but she didn’t know how extensive that effort was.

Rankin said he hopes to meet the signature goal by November, a year before the election.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GATHERING NAMES Signatures are being gathered for seven proposed ballot initiatives. If enough signatures are collected, these initiatives would appear on the ballot in November 1996. These initiatives would do the following: Limit property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value after exemptions. Prohibit the use of dogs or bait while hunting black bear and limit the bear hunting season. Raise Idaho’s minimum wage 50 cents a year to $6.25 per hour by the year 2000, and eliminate exceptions, including the one for employees who receive tips. Outlaw government endorsement of homosexual behavior and limit homosexual rights. Ban abortion of a viable fetus, except when giving birth would kill the mother or cause serious physical injury to her health. Give parents of children age 7-16 whose children are educated at home or in private schools a $500 per child tax credit. Make negotiating with teachers’ unions optional for school districts, and allow multiple unions within the same district.

This sidebar appeared with the story: GATHERING NAMES Signatures are being gathered for seven proposed ballot initiatives. If enough signatures are collected, these initiatives would appear on the ballot in November 1996. These initiatives would do the following: Limit property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value after exemptions. Prohibit the use of dogs or bait while hunting black bear and limit the bear hunting season. Raise Idaho’s minimum wage 50 cents a year to $6.25 per hour by the year 2000, and eliminate exceptions, including the one for employees who receive tips. Outlaw government endorsement of homosexual behavior and limit homosexual rights. Ban abortion of a viable fetus, except when giving birth would kill the mother or cause serious physical injury to her health. Give parents of children age 7-16 whose children are educated at home or in private schools a $500 per child tax credit. Make negotiating with teachers’ unions optional for school districts, and allow multiple unions within the same district.

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