The assaults on the constitutional rights of Idahoans to pass initiatives into law just keep coming from the Senate State Affairs Committee.
This time, it’s the Chair of the committee, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, who is introducing SB 1150. This is a bill that would mandate that all initiative petitions for the state of Idaho must be signed within the state of Idaho.
That sounds like it might be reasonable, until you think about it for a moment.
Under Idaho law, someone who is collecting signatures for an initiative petition must be an Idaho resident. Someone who is signing the petition must be a registered Idaho voter (and thus, a resident). That petition must be notarized within the state of Idaho by a notary public who is licensed by the state of Idaho. The signatures and verification of the signer’s Idaho voter registration are validated by one of Idaho’s county clerks against Idaho databases.
Where those Idahoans may be standing when they sign shouldn’t factor into it.
Does an Idahoan cease to be an Idahoan when they cross the state line? Does their power under the state constitution to propose and pass initiatives cease to exist when they are out-of-state? Do the constitutional rights of an Idahoan depend on his or her feet being planted on Idaho soil?
Of course not. Unless Sen. Lodge’s bill becomes law.
What Could the Emergency Be?
This bill declares an emergency so dire that its provisions must go into effect immediately. What could that emergency be?
There haven’t been any allegations that we’re aware of concerning fraudulent out-of-state initiative signatures. As far as we know, everyone who signed our petitions and the ones that have come before us were were Idaho residents. If they weren’t, their signatures were rejected by county clerks.
In fact, we couldn’t think of a single initiative petition in Idaho history, including ours, that has ever collected any large number of signatures while outside the state. Even if we could think of one, we’d ask, so what?—aren’t they still Idahoans with petitioning rights?
What could that emergency be? What could be different in the 2021 legislative session that didn’t create an emergency in the 2019 session or sessions before that?
Could it be that this time around, there are eight marijuana dispensary parking lots in Ontario, Oregon, packed full of registered Idaho voters, seven days a week? Could it be that one could find hundreds of Idahoans a day at these dispensaries, eager to sign a petition that would end their monthly road trip through the Idaho State Police gauntlet on Interstate 84? Could that be the emergency requiring this committee to disenfranchise Idahoans the moment they cross the Snake River?
Because have no doubt, that’s what SB 1150 would do.
SB 1150 Disenfranchises Servicemembers, Students, and Out-of-State Workers
As is the case with the two previous constitutional assaults from this committee, Senator Grow’s SJR 101 and Senator Vick’s SB 1110, with SB 1150, Senator Lodge is so transparently fixated on stopping marijuana initiatives she fails to see the seriously damaging constitutional consequences of the bill.
Suppose you’re an Idaho student studying abroad or even across the country, but you still maintain an Idaho residency for voting. You could download the petition online and have yourself and your fellow Idaho dorm mates to sign it. While your dormmates stay at school, you arrange a trip home to Idaho to get your petition notarized and turned into the county clerk. But under Sen. Lodge’s bill, that petition and all its signatures would be invalid. Only students who can afford to fly home to Idaho to sign get the right to petition under Sen. Lodge’s bill.
Suppose you’re an Idaho National Guardsman whose unit has been called up for overseas activation. You could download the petition online in Afghanistan and have the rest of your fellow Idaho soldiers sign it. When you return from duty, you could take the petition to an Idaho notary and then to your county clerk. But under Sen. Lodge’s bill, that petition would be invalid, perhaps disqualifying the signatures of Idaho servicemembers who may have been killed in action.
Suppose you’re a hard-working Idahoan whose business has received a long-term contract out-of-state. You and your Idaho workers will be gone for quite some time, but you all still maintain your Idaho residency. Under Sen. Lodge’s bill, none of you would have any say in changing Idaho laws through petition until you come back home, even if that petition directly affected your business.
It is patently absurd to mandate that an Idahoan be located in the state to sign a petition when we allow that Idahoan to be located out-of-state when voting on that petition with an absentee ballot.
It is patently unfair to once again change the initiative rules in the middle of the game. The Idaho Medical Marijuana Act IMMA has already been cleared to gather signatures and may have already collected some, perfectly legally, from outside the state. Passing Sen. Lodge’s bill would dismiss those Idahoans’ petitioning rights for no good reason.
Unless you think blowing up the constitution to stop marijuana is a “good reason.”