They Came for Our Democracy

Throughout his campaign and into the beginning of his term, Governor Little spoke about the importance of honoring the will of the people and maintaining public trust in government.

“As your Governor, I pledge to champion citizen confidence in state government.”

Governor Brad Little, 1/7/2019, State of the State Address

An essential part of developing confidence and trust in government is maintaining and increasing public involvement in policy decision making. Unfortunately, this legislative session we saw repeated attempts by legislators to undermine that involvement and subdue the voices of Idaho voters. Early in the session, we saw a bill to bring forward a constitutional amendment (HJR2) which would have allowed one party to manipulate voting boundaries for their own benefit, also known as gerrymandering.

CVI strongly opposed this bill because we believe it is essential that voters choose their representatives, and not the other way around. As you did many times throughout the session, hundreds of you called and emailed your elected officials and showed up to testify against this bill. The immediate and overwhelming opposition by Idaho citizens pushed the small group of politicians in charge to abandon this attempt and return the bill to committee to die for the session.

“The three branches of government we always talk about are executive, legislative and judicial. Lost in the discussion is the most important branch. That’s our citizens. Keep in mind senators, without them there is no us.”

Senator Jim Guthrie, 3/22/2019, Speaking on the Senate Floor in opposition to S1159

The most relentless effort to subdue the voices of Idaho voters was the repeated attacks on our ballot initiative process. Much like HJR2, these bills received bipartisan opposition, with over 65% of Idahoans (including the majority of moderate Republicans, very Conservative voters, and Trump supporters) agreed that “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.”

Additionally, the Governor’s office received nearly 5,000 calls and emails in opposition to this bill and less than 40 in support. Ignoring the will of the people, lawmakers brought this bill forward in six different forms, and it was only stopped when Governor Brad Little stood by his promises to honor the will of the people and vetoed the bills. One of the more subtle attempts to decrease public input were two bills to change the way Idaho approves administrative rules. These failed bills would have given the legislature more power to override the agency rules that are developed with public input.

Giving the Legislature more override power would diminish the impact citizens can have in the extensive rule making process. Unfortunately, the attempts to silence Idaho voters also occurred within the legislative process itself. To discourage public input, legislators have been moving hearing dates/times last minute, shortening hearings, limiting testimony time, hiding bills at the end of packed agendas, holding secret meetings, and sending bills straight to the floor.

“I cannot remember a session that did more damage to the faith of people in their government.”

Representative Ilana Rubel, 4/11/2019

The repeated attempts to subdue the voices of voters undermined the confidence citizens have in their state government, yet we saw overwhelming engagement from Idaho citizens who value their constitutional rights to participate in their government. Every one of these bills failed because Idahoans called, emailed, and showed up to the Statehouse in overwhelming numbers to voice their opposition.