S1159: Protect our Environment. Defend our Democracy

by Better Idaho Staff

This article originally appeared on the Conservation Voters for Idaho blog on March 21, 2019.

A strong and resilient democracy is intrinsically intertwined with the fight for our natural resources and our quality of life. CVI is dedicated to protecting access to the ballot box and expanding voting rights of all Idahoans.

To protect your right to directly participate in the ballot initiative process, we need two you to take two actions. Legislators need to hear and see your opposition!

  1. We need you to contact your Senators today and voice your opposition to S1159 today.
  2. Join us at 8:45 a.m. Friday morning to pack the Senate.

S1159 is a bill  to increase the threshold to get initiatives on the ballot and create the most restrictive process in the nation. 

As it stands, Idaho has a rigorous ballot initiative process that require 6% of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 counties to sign the petition over an 18 month span. The actual number of signatures that need to be collected is even higher due to the detailed and thorough signature vetting process, where an added middle initial or changed address prevents a name from being counted. The result of this rigorous process is that only two initiatives have made it to the ballot since these restrictions were passed in 2013. 

Yet certain legislators want to create a legislative process restrictive enough to stop any future grassroots initiatives from getting on the ballot. S1159 would increase the requirements to 10% of registered voters in 32 of Idaho’s 35 counties, while shortening the timeline to 180 days. 

As the sponsor and supporters of the bill have pointed out, many of our neighboring states have similar individual requirements as those included in S1159. What makes S1159 uniquely restrictive though, is that it combines the most stringent restrictions from every state into one process.

For example, Nevada has the same 10% requirement as S1159, but the signatures can be collected over 10.5 months and only need to be signed over their four congressional districts. Similarly, Colorado has the same six month time limit as S1159, but bills only need to meet a 5% threshold and there is no county or precinct requirement.

In other words, no other state has this combination of a high signature requirement, high percentage of counties/districts, and short six month window. The cumulative result of combining the individual requirements would be the most restrictive ballot initiative process in the United States.

Last week, hundreds of Idahoans traveled from across the state on two separate occasions to voice their opposition to S1159. Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20 at 8:00 a.m. the Senate State Affairs committee will vote on whether to send the bill forward to the full Senate. 

Do not let Idaho’s legislature silence your voice! Contact your legislators today andjoin us tomorrow at the Statehouse!

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