Idaho voters may get the chance to vote on a slate of initiatives this November that would bolster state sovereignty, though backers of the initiatives need to meet an April 30 deadline for collecting signatures. Supporters say they’re not sure if they’ll get the required 51,712 signatures of registered voters. The chief deputy to the Idaho secretary of state, Tim Hurst, said he doesn’t expect any initiatives to be on the statewide November ballot.
The Idaho Freedom Initiatives are a set of 17 initiatives that a volunteer group wants to get on the November ballot. Two of the 17 proposals are similar to measures approved by lawmakers this year. Supporters are no longer gathering signatures on a plan comparable to the Idaho Firearms Freedom Act, which would block federal regulations on guns made in Idaho. Signatures are still being collected for a plan similar to the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which requires the attorney general to sue the federal government to prevent a mandate to buy health insurance. The other initiatives currently circulating include plans that could thwart the federal government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses in Idaho and require presidential candidates to show their birth certificate to the Idaho secretary of state.
The 17 initiatives are sponsored by Alanna Grimm of Hayden, who also is a state coordinator for the conservative organization Campaign For Liberty. Grimm declined to speak with IdahoReporter.com, instead letting Chris Bass, who leads a Washington state group advocating for similar initiatives and worked with Grimm on Idaho’s initiatives, comment on the plans. Bass said there’s a reason why the group is calling for more than a dozen changes to state law. “Maybe there’s one of those 17 that someone feels very passionate about,” he said. “If you can create a large number of these, you have a greater opportunity of getting people to volunteer to get signatures for them because they feel like they’re accomplishing more.” He also said voters interested in these issues are likely to support multiple initiatives. “If they sign one, they’re generally disposed to signing all of them.”
Bass said he doesn’t know if any of the 17 initiatives will get the needed signatures by the end of the month. The Freedom Initiatives groups in both Idaho and Washington are relying on people to visit their websites to print off the initiatives and collect signatures. “It’s very grassroots driven,” Bass said. “There are various places around the state where people are getting signatures, but no one’s reporting in how many they’ve gotten.” Signatures need to be submitted to county clerks by the end of April to be counted. Clerks have until the end of June to verify signatures and send them to the secretary of state’s office.
Hurst said he doesn’t expect any of the initiatives to end up on the ballot, unless there is a late push of signature collections. “It doesn’t appear as though they’re going to make it,” he said.
Before every initiative is circulated for signatures, it receives a review from the Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. His office raised several constitutional concerns about the Freedom Initiatives, writing that several of the proposals clearly violate the U.S. or Idaho Constitution. The initiatives flagged by the attorney general include the birth certificate requirement for presidential candidates, as well as plans to require bringing home members of the Idaho National Guard who are deployed overseas and create a private currency exchange backed by gold or silver. Many of those constitutional concerns stem from the Supremacy Clause, which states that the U.S. Constitution and federal laws trump state laws.
Bass said he disagrees with Wasden’s interpretation of the Supremacy Clause and the U.S. Constitution. “In my opinion, the attorney general’s incompetent,” he said. Bass added that he thinks some Supreme Court decisions during the past 70 years misread the Constitution. Prior court rulings are often a key factor in legal decisions and interpretations of the law. “(Wasden)’s going along with B.S. reasoning because that’s what he was taught in law school,” Bass said.
Bass said the initiative requiring a birth certificate for presidential candidates is a response to the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama. “It’s rather absurd that we require less of our president than we do of our Little League players,” he said.
Idaho voters have not approved a ballot initiative since 2004. During that span, voters in Washington have approved six, Nevada voters five, Montana voters three, and Oregon voters two initiatives. Utah and Wyoming have also not approved any voter initiatives since 2004. Nevada and Washington voters both approved expanding bans on smoking tobacco, while Nevada and Montana approved increasing the minimum wage. State initiative laws and practices vary. Washington and Oregon have historically had more initiatives on the ballot. Both states let citizens to vote on initiatives and other ballot measures more often that Idaho, which allows them every two years during statewide elections. Idaho’s two western neighbors also have a July deadline for collecting signatures.
Idahoans will also vote on four proposed constitutional amendments in November. Three of them would allow public entities, including hospitals, airports, and electric cities, to issue bonds and incur debts. The fourth would allow the University of Idaho’s Board of Regents to set tuition and fees. Currently, the State Board of Education has that power for U of I and other public universities and colleges.