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House should quash new rules for voter initiatives

Statesman Editorial board
March 17, 2013
Idaho Statesman

One good element of the legislative process is the ability by either chamber to provide a check and balance. Often, one chamber provides a "voice of reason" on ill-conceived bills coming from the other side of the Rotunda.

The Idaho House has an opportunity to provide this important check on a bad Senate bill aimed at revamping the rules for voter initiatives.

One purpose of Senate Bill 1108 is to force people organizing voter initiatives to look beyond Ada and Canyon counties for support. Some senators call the change "good policy." Detractors call it "sour grapes" for last fall's resounding rejection of the Student's Come First propositions, which came from all corners of Idaho. We call it "unnecessary," and hope the House will stop this bill in its tracks.

The bill requires organizers to obtain valid signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of the state's 35 legislative districts - not 6 percent of all registered voters. Anyone who has been through the process knows it's difficult enough as it is to obtain the necessary signatures. It takes close to 50,000 valid signatures to get a voter initiative on the ballot, and a large portion of those signatures are thrown out for any number of reasons. So to be safe, organizers typically try to get more than 60,000 signatures - with hundreds, if not thousands, coming from outside Ada and Canyon counties.

Is this bill the result of sour grapes? The bill's sponsor, Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, says it isn't, and we'll take his word for it. But it's strange that such a bill comes just four months after Idaho voters trampled on the Legislature's approval of Students Come First laws. In politics, perception is reality. The power of the people prevailed last November on the education-reform propositions; it appears with this bill that the Senate is using a back-door approach to make sure nothing like that happens again.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email

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