U.S. District Courthouse in Boise

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

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Ruling from the bench this afternoon, a federal judge ordered the state to give Reclaim Idaho another chance to qualify its school-funding initiative for the November 2020 ballot.

After hearing online oral arguments and asking extensive questions, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill gave Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney a choice: Either give Reclaim Idaho another 48 days for signature-gathering and allow it to collect signatures electronically, in light of the COVID-19 epidemic; or declare that the roughly half of the required signatures already submitted are sufficient, and certify the measure for the November ballot.

“I don’t fault the governor or the Secretary of State for taking the approach they did,” the judge said. When Reclaim Idaho officials asked the governor and secretary to make accommodates to allow continued signature-gathering as the pandemic forced a statewide shutdown, both refused.

“They have a constitutional obligation to enforce the laws of the state, they chose to do so,” the judge said. “But in this case, doing so brought them in conflict with, I think, the plaintiffs’ 1st Amendment rights. And so from that point of view, I want it clearly understood that I am not criticizing the governor or the Secretary of State.”

“I am simply acknowledging that their exercise of their state constitutional duties, as they understood them, unfortunately resulted in a situation that I think interfered with the plaintiffs’ 1st Amendment right to participate in the initiative process.” You can read my full story here at idahopress.com, or pick up Wednesday's edition of the Idaho Press.

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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