SB 1110’s Single District Veto Loophole
35-district signature requirement could kill initiative with 100,000 signatures by targeting 10 signature removals.
Supporters Get All the Signatures, Opponents Just Pick Off a Few in One District
Imagine a hypothetical initiative that would need 65,000 signatures statewide though collecting 6% of the voters’ signatures in all 35 districts.
Suppose they did quite well and collected 100,000 signatures statewide. In many districts, they collected 10% or more of the signatures they needed.
But suppose it was a struggle in a few districts and they only managed 2,500 signatures in one of them, which just cleared the 6% margin there by 9 signatures.
So, they turn in all their signatures to the county clerks for verification. According to §34-1803B, “The signer of any initiative or referendum petition may have his or her name removed from the petition at any time after presentation of the petition to the county clerk but prior to verification of the signature.”
Now all opponents need to do is target that district and find just 10 voters who’ll send an email to the county clerk to strike their signature. The will of 100,000 Idahoans across every district in the state can be undone by the targeted removal of 10 signatures in just one district. The months of door-to-door in-person signature gathering can be undone in a day with a handful of emails.
This is not hypothetical. This tactic was used successfully against the “Count My Vote” initiative and unsuccessfully against the medical marijuana initiative in Utah in 2018.
Initiatives Will Become Impossible for All but The Well-Funded Out-Of-State Interests
Contrary to the goal of this bill, it will actually force grassroots Idaho groups out of the process and guarantee only the deep-pocket national interests can afford to hire the staff necessary to get enough signatures in every district to overcome the veto loophole.
Current Initiative Requirements Haven’t Been Ruled Constitutional
Gov. Little vetoed 2019’s versions of bills that would raise the district requirement to 24 or 32. He did so for fear the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals might invalidate Idaho’s current 18 district requirement.
In testimony, supporters said that every challenge to legislative districts as a geographic requirement has been adjudicated. That’s true, but misleading.
In 2019, a suit was brought over the 18 district requirement that was dismissed by the federal court. But that was for lack of standing and the judge specifically indicated he was not ruling on the merits of the case.
A 35-district requirement will certainly invite lawsuits by the ACLU of Idaho. They may be successful. Idaho’s previous county-based requirement was ruled unconstitutional as counties are differently-populated and a 6% threshold for each renders signatures of different value to that 6%. That will happen with 35 districts, as 6% of the registered voters in District 14 total 3,009 and those in District 26 total 1,309.