The Idaho Supreme Court just saved democracy in Idaho from its misguided Legislature and governor.

The high court overturned a new law that would have made it impossible for citizens to get ballot initiatives in front of voters for their consideration.

The court ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

The court’s rejection was a lesson in why the nation and each state have three branches of government, each one expected keep the others from running democracy into a ditch.

Genuflecting to rural voters, the Legislature and Gov. Brad Little had greenlighted the law that nearly doubled the number of legislative districts from which initiative backers would have to collect signatures. The number rose from 18 to 35, every district that exists.

It put voters in rural counties in control of the wheel. A tiny minority in a sparsely populated area could have stolen the keys to even a wildly popular initiative.

The law was punitive to start with. It was the latest effort in the state’s long history of legislators not trusting voters. The court’s 55-page decision documented that history.

This time, legislators drafted the law after voters approved a 2018 initiative that expanded Medicaid and extended healthcare to an estimated 62,000 uninsured Idahoans.

The Legislature’s majority disdained the initiative and clearly wanted to stop such a thing from ever happening again.

The court saw through a lot of breathless hyperbole from state officials who claimed that the new law was fair and insured the inclusion of rural people.

Once a state of ranchers, farmers and loggers, Idaho is rural no longer. Boise, the state capital and largest city, relies on corporate offices, tech, energy, banking and health care for its economy. Southeast Idaho relies on tech, transportation and the National Energy Laboratory.

The just-completed 2020 Census showed that urban areas grew while rural areas shrank.

Yet, legislators have persisted in the idea that all wisdom lives somewhere in rural Idaho and that they can harness it if they can keep suspect urbanites from trampling it.

Their not-so-hidden agenda, however, has been to reserve power to themselves and to keep it away from voters.

The Supreme Court kicked their agenda to the curb.

It resoundingly reaffirmed the referendum power of citizens to propose laws and to approve or reject those approved by the Legislature. It’s a power enshrined in the state Constitution.

The court’s decision was right for democracy and right for Idaho.


“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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