Idaho House floor
Chamber of the Idaho House of Representatives at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise (Photo: Frank Schulenburg, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

A pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment that would have made qual­i­fy­ing ini­tia­tives to Ida­ho’s statewide bal­lot much more dif­fi­cult has failed, thanks to Repub­li­can defec­tors in the Gem State’s House of Representatives.

An attempt to approve Sen­ate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 101 — dubbed the “Silence the Vot­ers Amend­ment” by crit­ics — fell eight votes short yes­ter­day, which means the pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al change won’t be sent to Ida­ho voters.

Here’s a quick syn­op­sis of the amend­ment from the Ida­ho Con­ser­va­tion League, which oppos­es it, like NPI: “Sen­ate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 101 would require sig­na­tures from 6% of eli­gi­ble vot­ers from all thir­ty-five leg­isla­tive dis­tricts, instead of the cur­rent require­ment for 6% of vot­er sig­na­tures from eigh­teen dis­tricts. Under the pro­pos­al, 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 SJR 101 would fur­ther restrict it.”

“In all hon­esty, most of us believed it would be a long shot to defeat this amend­ment on the House floor,” said Reclaim Ida­ho’s Luke Mayville. “But we tried any­way. We left it all on the field, and we pulled off a mas­sive upset.”

“Over a cen­tu­ry ago, a pop­ulist move­ment swept the coun­try and estab­lished the rights of ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum in Ida­ho and in states across the coun­try,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize that today there is an anti-pop­ulist, anti-cit­i­zen agen­da, advanced by nation­al spe­cial inter­est groups, attempt­ing to elim­i­nate those same rights. In Arkansas, Ohio, and else­where, ini­tia­tive rights are being rolled back this very moment.”

“Here in Ida­ho, we are defend­ing our rights.”

“In the same way that the cit­i­zens of Ida­ho stood up against the school-vouch­er agen­da and defend­ed our pub­lic schools, we have now suc­cess­ful­ly beat back the attempt by spe­cial inter­ests to take away our ini­tia­tive rights.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Sauter, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents Sand­point, was among the nays. Sauter “told the House that he’s received an ‘over­whelm­ing’ num­ber of calls and emails oppos­ing the res­o­lu­tion,” the Ida­ho States­man report­ed.

The States­man­’s Ryan Suppe added this obser­va­tion: “Dur­ing pub­lic hear­ings on the pro­pos­al, Ida­ho res­i­dents from across the state slammed it.”

But Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers did­n’t lis­ten. They tried to push it through any­way. In the Sen­ate, they were suc­cess­ful: twen­ty-sev­en sen­a­tors vot­ed for it, while only eight were opposed. But in the House, the out­come was dif­fer­ent. Bicam­er­al­ism just helped save the peo­ple’s ini­tia­tive pow­er in Idaho!

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
Ini­tia­tives, signatures
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Ayes: 39; Nays: 31 (two-thirds thresh­old required for pas­sage)

Vot­ing Aye: Alfieri, Andrus, Bar­bi­eri, Boyle, Can­non, Cornilles, Crane (Jaron), Crane (Brent), Dixon (Sage), Dur­rant, Ehardt, Ehlers, Gal­lagher, Handy, Hawkins, Healey, Hill, Holtz­claw, Hor­man, Kings­ley, Lam­bert, Men­dive, Miller, Mitchell, Monks, Palmer, Pick­ett, Price, Red­man, Scott, Shep­herd, Skaug, Tan­ner, Van­der Woude, Wheel­er, Wis­niews­ki, Wroten, Young (Can­non), Mr. Speaker

Vot­ing Nay: All­go­od, Berch, Blanks­ma, Bundy, Burns, Chea­tum, Chew, Clow, Dixon (Chenele), Erick­son, Fur­niss, Galav­iz, Gan­non, Gar­ner, Green, Lant­i­ng, Man­war­ing, Math­ias, McCann, Mick­elsen, Nash, Necochea, Nelsen, Pet­zke, Ray­bould, Ray­mond, Roberts, Rubel, Sauter, Weber, Yamamoto

The Repub­li­cans who vot­ed no were:

  • Chris All­go­od, 11th District
  • Megan Blanks­ma, 8th Dis­trict, the House Major­i­ty Leader
  • Matthew Bundy, 8th District
  • Richard Chea­tum, 28th District
  • Lance Clow, 25th District
  • Chenele Dixon, 24th District
  • Mar­co Erick­son, 33rd District
  • Rod Fur­niss, 31st District
  • Dan Gar­ner, 28th District
  • Gre­go­ry Lant­i­ng, 25th District
  • Dustin Man­war­ing, 29th District
  • Lori McCann, 6th District
  • Stephanie Mick­elsen, 32nd District
  • Jack Nelsen, 26th District
  • James Pet­zke, 21st District
  • Britt Ray­bould, 34th District
  • Jer­ald Ray­mond, 31st District
  • Mark Sauter, 1st District
  • Jon Weber, 34th District
  • Julie Yamamo­to, 11th District

Many Repub­li­cans vot­ing no did so in tan­dem with their seat­mate. (Ida­ho, like Wash­ing­ton, has mul­ti-mem­ber leg­isla­tive dis­tricts rather than House districts).

The fail­ure of SJR101 is an impor­tant win for direct democ­ra­cy in the Gem State. We con­grat­u­late all of the peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions that worked to defeat this bad con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. It’s nice to get good polit­i­cal news out of Idaho!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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