The bill would require signatures from 6% of voters in each of the state’s 35 legislative districts. 

The Idaho House on Wednesday sent a bill that would change the signature gathering requirements for citizen ballot initiatives to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for final consideration.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 1110 would require organizers of a ballot initiative to collect signatures from 6% of voters in each of the state’s 35 legislative districts. 

Current law requires signatures from 6% of voters in 18 legislative districts.

Supporters say the bill ensures rural voters have a say in the initiative process. 

“What this does do is ensure all corners of Idaho have a say in the formation of Idaho law,” said Rep. Jim Addis, the Coeur d’Alene Republican who sponsored the bill. “It is inclusive, and it ensures our rural and urban citizens have a choice in the creation of state law.”

The fate of several bills that would restrict voting or ballot initiative procedures in Idaho hang in the balance when the Legislature reconvenes April 6 after postponing the 2021 session due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Capitol.

One would put new restrictions on turning in absentee ballots.

  • House Bill 223, pushed by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, would make it a felony to mail or drop off other people’s absentee ballots. Moyle said he wanted to protect the security of elections and fend off so-called ballot harvesting by political activists. But many opponents said the bill would turn Idahoans into criminals for helping friends or loved ones by dropping ballots in the mail or taking them to a county elections office.

Two other proposals before the Legislature would impact the ballot initiative process.

  • Senate Bill 1110 would change the signature gathering requirements for initiatives. The bill would make it so that ballot initiatives would need to have signatures of 6% of voters in all 35 legislative districts, up from the current requirement of 18 legislative districts. Supporters say the bill increases voter involvement in the referendum process and spreads the work of verifying signatures more evenly among county clerks. Opponents say the bill makes it that much harder to get a referendum or initiative on the ballot.

  • House Joint Resolution 4 seeks to create an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would prohibit the legalization of controlled substances unless approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the Idaho Legislature. Supports say they want to create a high bar for legalizing drugs. But opponents say the resolution is an attempt to head off a potential ballot initiative where a simple majority of voters could legalize medical marijuana. Nationally, 36 states have approved comprehensive medical marijuana programs, including Utah and Montana, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. In November 2020, Montana voters legalized possession and use of marijuana for adults 21 and over.