Ballot initiatives are one of the best ways for citizens to push through necessary change when legislators fail them. By gathering the required amount of signatures from fellow voters, anyone can initiate a law to be placed on the ballot so that all Idahoans can vote to approve the measure into law or reject it. Yet, some politicians in the Statehouse are currently trying to make it harder for everyday voters to participate in the process. Recently, Senator Vick introduced SB1110, which is heading to the Senate floor later this week.
The ballot initiative is the most direct form of democracy we have, and is useful when the Legislature fails to act on certain issues. Idahoans have used the ballot initiative to establish the State Lottery Commission, ensure political funds and lobbyist activity are disclosed to the public, expand Medicare, regulate dredge mining, and establish the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
“Idaho’s citizens have sparingly used the initiative and referendum process.” – Former Idaho Senate majority leader and longtime GOP activist, Rod Beck. As Rock Beck points out, Idahoans have sparingly used the ballot initiative process.
Idaho already has one of the strictest ballot initiative requirements in the country, and any further changes to our ballot initiative process would make it nearly impossible for everyday Idahoans to put forth an initiative on the ballot. As it currently stands, a proposed ballot initiative needs signatures from 6% of registered voters in 16 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. SB1110 would change this requirement to 6% in ALL 35 districts.
Conservation Voters for Idaho believes that any changes to the ballot initiative process is an assault on this important constitutional right.
Why the changes?
The supporters of this bill say they are ensuring rural districts are better represented in ballot initiatives, but the effect would be actually the opposite. This bill would only benefit wealthy out-of-state interest groups with enough funding to secure signatures from all districts, especially rural counties, which have a lot of geographical turf to cover. By creating further hurdles to the ballot initiative process, rural grassroots interests would have a hard time getting something on the ballot ever again.
“Some legislators are offended when the people take the law into their own hands. Some think the voters are not smart enough to be able to pass legislation on their own — to second guess the elected representatives.”
–Former Idaho Attorney General and former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice, Jim Jones
What Can I Do?
SB1110 will hit the Senate floor later this week for a full floor vote. Call and email your legislators today. Here are the best ways you can take action:
- FIND YOUR SENATOR HERE. First you’ll need to know who your legislator is – they want to hear from you! Just type in your address and you’ll see your legislators are. You will just need your Senator’s contact information.
- Pick up the phone. A phone call holds the strongest weight with legislators — it shows you care enough to take the time to pick up the phone.
- Send a personalized email. You can use our email action tool which will send an email to your legislator. Try to personalize the subject heading and body of the text as much as you can – form emails don’t hold much influence.
- Tell your friends and family what’s going on and ask them to take action too!