U.S. District Courthouse in Boise

James D. McClure U.S. District Courthouse and federal building in Boise

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A federal judge on Monday denied a motion from Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to stay his ruling granting Reclaim Idaho a second shot at qualifying its school funding initiative for the November ballot, and the non-profit group filed a new, expedited motion to enforce the judge’s order and certify the measure for the ballot right away.

“It's great news that the state has been denied in its first attempt to block our initiative,” said Luke Mayville, Reclaim Idaho founder. “We are encouraged by Judge (B. Lynn) Winmill's affirmation that last week’s court order still stands and that delay is unacceptable.”

The group’s all-volunteer signature-gathering effort to qualify the initiative for the ballot was halted by the governor’s stay-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the order didn’t lift until the deadline for submitting signatures.

The group had asked both Little and Denney to make accommodations to allow their signature drive to continue safely during the stay-home order, but both refused. Winmill ruled that the state had violated the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by doing so.

Little and Denney said last week that they planned to appeal the court order, and on Monday, Little said, “We remain committed to appealing this decision and defending Idaho’s sovereignty over its ballot initiative process.”

However, the state had not yet filed an appeal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

Last week, the court gave the state a choice: It could either certify the initiative for the ballot with the signatures already collected, which are roughly just over half of those required; or give the group another 48 days of signature-gathering — the number of days it lost when the stay-home order took effect — and allow it to collect signatures electronically, for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state was given until Friday at 5 p.m. to choose one of the two options; it chose neither, instead responding to the court that neither option was acceptable and it wanted the judge's ruling stayed so the state could appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Deborah Ferguson, a former longtime federal prosecutor who along with law partner Craig Durham is representing Reclaim Idaho pro-bono, or without charge, in the case, said Monday, “They were ordered to make a choice, and they haven't. So they're just defying the court. ... I'm stunned, actually. I can’t say I've ever seen anything like this in all my years of practicing."

“They’re obviously very intent on fighting it tooth and nail,” she said. “It’s disappointing. I would think that they would have more respect for the rule of law.”

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (no paywall on coronavirus stories, but please do subscribe and support us!), or pick up Tuesday's edition of the Idaho Press; it'll be on the front page.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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