In this file photo, Reclaim Idaho Vista team co-leader Cameron Crow validates signature sheets from door knocking and collecting signatures for the Quality Education Act ballot initiative in Boise on Sept. 8, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun) in Boise, Idaho on September 8, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
As their deadline arrived last week, Reclaim Idaho organizers said they exceeded signature-gathering goals for their push to place an education funding ballot initiative on Idaho’s November 2022 general election ballot.
Overall, Reclaim Idaho organizers and volunteers collected more than 95,269 signatures and qualified 20 different legislative districts, Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville told the Idaho Capital Sun on Thursday.
If those signatures are verified and accepted at the county and state level, that would be enough to get on the ballot in November.
To qualify for the ballot, Reclaim Idaho needed to collect signatures from 6% of registered voters statewide (about 65,000 voters) and 6% of registered voters in at least 18 different legislative districts.
Reclaim Idaho organizers set a higher goal than the minimum numbers necessary to qualify because they know that up to 25% or 30% of signatures could be rejected because the person who signed is not a registered voter, didn’t write down their correct address or signed illegibly.
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“We think of it as an insurance policy in case something goes wrong,” Mayville said “Similarly to how we overshoot the total number of signatures needed, we also wanted to overshoot the number of (legislative) districts needed.”
Organizers had until May 1 to collect enough signatures to qualify the Quality Education Act.
The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office gave Reclaim Idaho until Monday to turn in their final signatures, because May 1 fell on Sunday, Mayville said.
“Just to avoid any potential problems with that, we are making sure as many of the signatures as possible were turned in by Friday, but we will be turning in the ultimate, final signatures on May 2,” Mayville said.
“Probably over 95% of the signatures we will be turning in have already been turned into the counties,” Mayville added.
Reclaim Idaho volunteers, often wearing a green shirt and cap, collected most of the signatures by knocking on doors across the state.
What would Reclaim Idaho’s Quality Education Act do?
If it makes the ballot and is approved by a simple majority of voters, the Quality Education Act would raise more than $300 million per year for education and public schools. The money would come from increasing the corporate income tax from 6% to 8% and by creating a new income tax bracket at 10.925% for individuals making more than $250,000 per year and families making more than $500,000 per year.
“The new funds proposed will go directly toward priorities like better pay for teachers and staff and support for programs that are currently underfunded,” Mayville said. “We want people to understand this initiative is not funded by property taxes.”
Some Republicans in the Idaho Legislature, including the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, have come out in opposition to the education initiative.
“My reaction is that it is a huge tax increase,” House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, told the Idaho Capital Sun last year.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said he opposes the initiative because he doesn’t believe increasing funding for education will solve the state’s problems. Instead, Thayn favors more school choice options and overhauling Idaho’s public school funding formula.
Reclaim Idaho is the same nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that led the successful push for Medicaid expansion in Idaho, which 60.6% of voters approved in 2018.
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What happens next with the education ballot initiative in Idaho?
Reclaim Idaho leaders and volunteers are turning in the final signatures to county clerks on Monday. From there, the counties have 60 days to verify the signatures. County clerks will be looking for things like making sure voters’ addresses on the initiative exactly match the registered voters’ addresses on file, ensuring the signers are all registered voters and making sure the signatures, names and addresses are all legible.
After that process is complete around the end of June, Reclaim Idaho organizers will submit the verified signatures to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office for another round of verification.
If the signatures are verified and meet the requirements for number of legislative districts and overall signatures, then the initiative will be approved to appear on the November ballot and assigned a name, such as Proposition One.
Even if the initiative makes the ballot, Mayville knows Reclaim Idaho’s hundreds of volunteers can’t rest yet. They will spend the summer and fall getting the word out and encouraging Idahoans to get out and vote.
“We are well aware that the next phase of the campaign begins right away,” Mayville said. “We know more people will start paying attention and will be curious about this initiative. So we are determined to do all that we can to inform the public about what is in this initiative.”
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