Local Option Isn't On the Idaho Ballot, But Today's Voter Turnout Will Have a Lot to Say About Its Future 

click to enlarge PEERADACH RATTANAKOSES, 123RF
  • Peeradach Rattanakoses, 123RF
With election officials pointing to a projected strong turnout in today's general election, the swelling number of registered voters will also mean any effort to gain traction for future statewide ballot initiatives will become more challenging.

State law requires any petition pushing for a statewide ballot measure receive a minimum of 6 percent of the registered voters in the state's most recent general election. This election year being one with a hotly contested presidential contest at the top of the ballot almost assured an increase in the number of registered voters participating at the polls. Ahead of Election Day, Ada County elections officials were reporting record-breaking numbers of early voters.

Making matters more tricky is a recent change to the petition requirement, pushed through by the Republican majority of the 2013 Legislature. Traditionally, petitions required 6 percent of all Idaho registered voters. But the amendment, signed into law by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, now requires signatures from 6 percent of all registered voters in each of Idaho's's 35 legislative districts. Opponents of the change argued the new petition-gathering requirement tips the balance against urban areas.

That could be a problem for one particular effort that has been waiting in the wings: a statewide initiative that would allow Idaho municipalities to turn to voters for permission to institute a so-called local option tax. In particular, some Boise planners have indicated that an LOT would help fuel funding for projects such as an intra-city transportation system for the Treasure Valley.

"I hope to spend a good deal of time this next fiscal year working on a possible local option initiative," Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said in September. "It remains to be seen if it's going to be possible, and I should know a lot more in the next six to eight weeks."

Of course, the "next six to eight weeks" also includes today's voter turnout across the Gem State.
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