CVI Testimony against SB1159 and HB296

Senate State Affairs Testimony

April 2, 2019

Rialin Flores, Program Director

Oppose HB 296: Ballot Initiative Requirements (Trailer to SB 1159)

CVI is terribly concerned about the timing of this legislation and SB 1159. Participation in the electoral process is critical to our Constitutional Republic. And participation is exactly what we witnessed last year in the runup to the election. Thousands of volunteers participated in getting Prop 2 on the ballot and many of those were young people participating for the first time. That’s why the bills making it harder to get initiatives on the ballot look like nothing more than a door slammed in the face of everybody who participated. Instead of encouraging participation, these bills appear to punish it. Sadly, the bills also appear to validate the the most cynical views of our electoral system.

Whether it is meant or not, the message from state lawmakers appears to be, “Thanks for participating now don’t do it again.” It’s the timing that’s causing this perception.

There’s something more. Making the initiative process harder was not a top political issue in the November election. There wasn’t a single gubernatorial debate question regarding the issue. Candidates weren’t running on a platform of making the process nearly impossible for anybody but millionaires. It’s not on a party platform.

Yet we do have is polling on where Idahoans are when it comes to efforts to change the citizen-led ballot initiative. A new public policy poll of 1,182 registered Idaho voters shows strong support of the state’s ballot initiative process and strong opposition to efforts to make citizen-led initiatives more difficult to get on the ballot.

Notably, 89 percent of respondents say the initiative process is an important constitutional right that should be protected. Majorities of all demographic groups say they strongly agree.

Some highlights from the poll:

Poll question: The current ballot initiative process leaves out the voices of people in rural parts of Idaho.

  • Only 26% of voters agree with this statement.

Poll question: The citizen led ballot initiative process is a constitutional right and is protected as political free speech and efforts to make it significantly more restrictive go against this right.

  • Overall 65% of Idahoans agree with this statement
  • Including:
    • 75% of Moderate Republicans voters
    • 58% of Very Conservative voters
    • 54% of Trump Supporters

The poll, conducted March 22 and 23, was conducted online, by Change Research for Idahoans for Free and Fair Elections (IFFE). Its margin of error is +/-2.9 percent.       

Idahoans for Free and Fair Elections (IFFE) is a coalition of Idahoans concerned about threats to the democratic process and work to protect our constitutional rights to free and fair elections. Conservation Voters for Idaho is one of the members in this coalition.

Yet–we know that not everyone is a believer in polls. We are not asking you to solely believe the numbers submitted to you in this poll, but match that with the numbers of calls and emails each of you received should be an indicator that this is not an issue that is supported by Idahoans from across the state.

If you vote to move HB 296 forward this morning, it is in light of this information and despite knowing there is large public opposition from your constituents. So I stand before you asking to uphold the foundation of our constitutional Republic, respect the will of your voters, and hold this bill in committee.