Idaho Seeks to Block Electronic-Signature Gathering for Education Ballot Measure

By Mark Walsh — July 17, 2020 2 min read

Idaho officials have asked a U.S. Supreme Court justice to block a lower-court injunction that allows a group backing a ballot initiative to boost education spending in the state to collect electronic signatures and get extra time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Idaho Gov. Bradley Little and Secretary of State Lawrence Denney, both Republicans, filed the emergency stay application late on July 16 with Justice Elena Kagan, who is the circuit justice for the 9th Circuit, which includes the state.

Reclaim Idaho, based in Twin Falls, is seeking to place its “Invest in Idaho” measure on the fall ballot. The initiative would increase taxes on corporations and individuals with personal income of $250,000 (or $500,000 for married couples). The group says the measure would raise at least $170 million for a new Quality Education Fund, which would distribute money to school districts based on enrollment.

The group, which was behind a successful 2018 initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho, was trying to gather the necessary 55,000 in-person signatures for the education ballot measure when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States earlier this year.

Court papers say that Reclaim Idaho voluntarily suspended its signature-gathering efforts in March because of COVID-19. The deadline to gather signatures was May 1.

Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit on June 6 alleging that state officials had violated its First Amendment rights by not suspending Idaho law to allow it to collect signatures electronically during the pandemic.

A federal district judge initially gave the state a choice of accepting the initiative for placement on the ballot or allowing Reclaim Idaho to collect electronic signatures, with additional time. The judge later ordered the state to go with the second option, allowing Reclaim Idaho to begin gathering signatures on July 9 for 48 days.

“Ordering an online solicitation pays greater respect to the state’s right to limit the initiative process in ways which do not violate the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” said U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

On July 9, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, voted 2-1 to deny the state officials’ request for an emergency stay of the district court’s order. The dissenting judge said state officials had “made a substantial showing that the district court exceeded its authority by awarding relief that effectively rewrites Idaho’s election laws, particularly its law designed to protect against fraud in the initiative process.”

In papers filed with Kagan, the governor and secretary of state say Reclaim Idaho had dragged its feet in collecting signatures for the ballot initiative and nothing the state did barred the group from attempting to continue to collect them safely even amid the pandemic.

The group’s use of a private vendor to collect voter signatures online is open to fraud, the state officials say.

“There can be no question that there is a significant risk of fraud in an online system implemented on nine days’ notice without any testing or vetting by the state—all of which threatens the public interest in maintaining the integrity of, and voter confidence in, the election,” the governor and secretary of state say.

As circuit justice, Kagan may seek a response from Reclaim Idaho. Then, she could act on the emergency request on her own or could refer it to the full Supreme Court for action. [UPDATED Friday 4:55 p.m. Justice Kagan has called for a response to the stay application, due Tuesday at 5 p.m.]

The case is Little v. Reclaim Idaho (No. 20A18).

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read