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Idaho voters won't decide change to initiative gathering process

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

The Idaho House today turned down an effort to change the process for gathering signatures for initiatives. The majority voted in favor of SJR 101a, but it needed a two-thirds vote to appear before voters as a constitutional amendment.

Two-thirds of the Idaho Senate had already given approval to the change which would have required 6% of legal voters in every legislative district in the state sign on to an initiative for it to go before voters. The current threshold is 6% in half of the state's legislative districts.

The legislation is similar to a bill that was passed in 2021 making a similar change. The difference, this time, is that lawmakers are seeking to pass the change via a constitutional amendment instead of just a standard bill.

Proponents of the amendment say it is about making the participation in the initiative process more representative of the entire state.

The distribution threshold, as it's called, is not necessarily unusual as we reported earlier. Massachusetts requires that no more than 25% of signatures come from any one county. Utah has requirements spreading the initiative requirements out among legislative districts.

Policymakers should always be careful about changing the right of citizens to make law through an initiative process. If this particular amendment is rejected by voters, lawmakers may want to consider a variation of the state of Nevada's requirements.

In order for statutory initiatives to pass in Nevada, a single general election vote in favor is needed. But for constitutional amendments, a majority of voters is needed in two consecutive elections.

A referendum - or veto of the legislature's work - would still take just one majority vote. But if citizens choose to bypass the legislature and create their own laws, a higher threshold could be adopted requiring two affirmative votes of the people.

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