I have to say that Julianne Young’s columns on making the initiative process impossible in Idaho are among the cleverest and most disingenuous arguments against democracy I’ve seen in some time. Remember that the current process is among the most difficult in the country and that it took a tremendous grass-roots effort by over 2,000 volunteers just to get the initiative on the ballot.

Bob Goetsch

Bob Goetsch

Also, remember that the only reason the initiative was needed was six years of inaction by the Republican legislature. And remember that the initiative won overwhelming approval by 61 percent of voters in the last election.

With that in mind, let’s look at Young’s effort to create what might be called “an alternative reality.”

It begins in the first sentence, with building “a more balanced, state-wide representative voice into the initiative process.” The current process already requires signatures from 6 percent of registered voters (a larger number than actual voters) in the last election, and that must include 6 percent of the registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. In other words, a majority of Idaho’s districts must meet the 6 percent of registered voters requirement, in addition to the state-wide requirement of 6 percent of the registered voters. But in Young’s view, support in a majority of the legislative districts is not enough, we need to require support in two-thirds of the districts.

Young also wants to cut in half the time allotted for gathering these signatures, from 18 months to 9 months. Considering the incredible organizing effort it took to get the Medicaid expansion initiative accomplished, this would place a tremendous burden on any citizens’ initiative. In fact, contrary to Young’s argument, only really well-financed, corporate-supported initiatives from outside Idaho would have any chance at success under her time-table.

Perhaps the most bald-faced prevarication in Young’s attack on our constitutional right to an initiative is the claim that she just wants equal representation for rural districts. Does anyone really believe that requiring signature success in two-thirds of Idaho’s districts makes it easier for rural voters to have a voice? Does shortening the time allotted to gather signatures make it easier for farmers to collect those signatures? Can the Farm Bureau shorten the growing season to give rural voters more time for initiatives?

It was bad enough that the legislature threw a hissy fit over voters’ temerity in passing the Medicaid initiative. Young is just patronizing all of us in her careful explanation of the legislative process, when the legislature rushed through SB 1159 at the last minute, without adequate hearings and without following established protocols.

Don’t fall for the “We’re your wise legislators” argument when our Republican governor recognized the bill to limit our right to an initiative for what it is: an unconstitutional assault on all voters that was bound to fail in the courts.

Bob Goetsch is a writer and editor in Idaho Falls retired from a national research laboratory.

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