SB 1110: Axing ballot initiatives and referenda – 2021
ICL's position: Oppose
Current Bill Status: Law
Issue Areas: Ballot Initiatives, Elections
4-17-21 UPDATE: Governor Little Issues Transmittal Letter
On April 17, Governor Little signed SB110 but issued a Transmittal Letter. His letter cited concerns but despite his reservations, he decided not to veto the bill. His letter reads in part, “this bill presents a much closer call” than Senate Bill 1159 and House Bill 296, which were similar, but he vetoed them both in 2019.
Gov. Little added, “I also expect the federal courts may be called to determine whether SB 1110 violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The Idaho State Legislature has introduced several bills this session aimed at restricting Idahoans’ voting rights. Sen. Steve Vick (R- Dalton Gardens) continued this trend by introducing a bill attacking the ballot initiative process.
SB 1110 would require signatures from 6% of eligible voters from all 35 legislative districts. The current process requires 6% of voter signatures from 18 districts. If a single district fails to get enough signatures, the initiative would not qualify for the ballot. Idaho already has one of the most strenuous ballot initiative processes in the country and SB 1110 would further restrict it.
Only the most popular, well-funded and well-organized efforts realistically can qualify for a ballot.
In the past, citizen initiatives led to the establishment of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in 1938 to try to remove wildlife-related decisions from political interference, and to approve the Dredge and Placer Mining Act in 1954, which regulated commercial dredge mining operations that were wreaking havoc on rivers and streams. The fact is that since 1912, only 15 initiatives have been successful. That’s an average of only one every 7 years. Idahoans have been judicious with initiatives, and it remains an important part of our democratic framework.
Referendums provide citizens a way to veto legislation approved by legislators, and in the more than 100 years that we’ve had the authority, Idahoans have been responsible.
This bill is a solution in search of a problem. And it’s important to remember, the Idaho Constitution says, “All political power is inherent in the people.”