* Federal Judge Winmill To Be Praised
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California December 6, 2001Valuable Door Opens In IdahoFor State InitiativesJust this Friday, November 29th, 2001 Federal Judge Lynn Winmill overturned Idaho's 1997 State law that effectively closed down the state's initiative process from the citizens. This judicial decision will now make the advancement of the JAIL4Judges Initiative in Idaho so much easier. -Ron BransonFederal judge overturns ballot initiative statuteJudge: Law puts rural voters at unfair advantage
By Chuck Oxley
BOISE -- A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional an Idaho law that restricts the gathering of signatures for ballot initiatives. U.S. District
Judge Lynn Winmill issued a 17-page decision Friday and granted a motion for summary judgment brought by the Idaho Coalition United for Bears and other political groups.
Initiatives qualify for the ballot through petitions signed by registered
voters. An Idaho law passed in 1997 requires anyone trying to qualify an
initiative for the ballot to gather the signatures of 6 percent of the
registered votes in each of 22 counties. That was the key fault, according
to Winmill´s finding.
"Because over 60 percent of Idaho´s population resides in just 9 of the
state´s 44 counties, it easy to envision a situation where three-fourths of
Idaho´s voters sign a petition but fail to get it on the ballot because they
could not collect 6 percent of the vote in rural counties," Winmill wrote.
"This scheme effectively gives rural voters preferential treatment..."
Deputy Attorney General Kirsten Wallace had argued for the state that the
multi-county distribution law encourages the statewide discussion of an
issue, since a portion of each county must sign petitions. Before 1997,
signatures could be gathered anywhere in the state, allowing initiative
groups to collect thousands at big events such as fairs in Idaho´s
most-populated counties. Since the law passed, no initiatives have
qualified for the Idaho ballot, though several groups began unsuccessful
signature drives. Three individuals and two organizations brought the
lawsuit against the state: term limits advocate Don Morgan; Kootenai County Commissioner Ron Rankin; the Idaho Coalition for Bears and its leader, Lynn Fritchman; and the Initiative and Referendum Institute. Voters in 1996 defeated the coalition´s initiative to ban hunters from bear-baiting.
Winmill also found unconstitutional a related section of law that makes it a crime for anyone to "willfully or knowingly" lie to obtain signatures on a
petition. Winmill said the provision was vague and could allow a prosecutor to charge a circulator for "willfully circulating a petition containing a false statement, even though the circulator did know about the false statement."
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