Reclaim Idaho - education initiative -- copy

Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, speaks to visitors about the group’s education initiative during a Reclaim Idaho meeting at the Skyline Activities Center in Idaho Falls on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.

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Just three hours in, Idaho’s first online signature drive for a voter initiative already had gathered 1,500 signatures on Monday morning. “We just launched it today,” said Luke Mayville, founder of Reclaim Idaho. “The federal court ordered us to set up a system for collecting electronic signatures that meets the highest industry standard, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

The group is gathering signatures online using DocuSign, the company that authenticates electronic signatures for real estate transactions around the world and that is widely used in Idaho.

Gov. Brad Little and Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney continue to press legal appeals against Reclaim Idaho’s move, arguing that the ballot drive has already missed its April 30 deadline for gathering signatures, after the statewide shutdown order for the coronavirus halted it in March. The shutdown order didn’t lift until the same day as the signature deadline. Little and Denney argue that allowing any changes to the process, including for safety during the pandemic, would disrupt Idaho’s election laws.

A federal judge disagreed, and ordered signature gathering to continue online for another 48 days, the number of days the group lost as of the shutdown. Mayville said after some start-up time, it began gathering signatures with just 44 of those days remaining.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected the state’s emergency motion for a stay on Thursday, Little said in a statement, “We intend to appeal this decision and to seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. We will continue our efforts to preserve the integrity of Idaho’s duly enacted laws and to prevent the disruption to our upcoming elections that this decision will cause.”

The U.S. District Court in Idaho had previously also rejected a motion from the state for a stay, to keep the ballot drive from restarting.

Reclaim Idaho, the same volunteer group that successfully got the Medicaid expansion initiative on the Idaho ballot in 2018, when voters approved it by more than 61% of the vote, is now pressing a school funding initiative. Its “Invest in Idaho” initiative proposes to raise income tax rates on corporations and the wealthy by up to 3 percentage points to generate $170 million a year for public schools, reducing the need for local supplemental property tax levies. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's edition of the Idaho Press; as of 3 this afternoon, the group was up to 2,000 electronic signatures.

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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