Candidate for lieutenant governor Terri Pickens Manweiler speaks at the Idaho Democratic Convention on June 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
On the day after she finished second in the lieutenant governor’s election, Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler announced she is beginning work to qualify an abortion rights ballot initiative in Idaho.
Pickens Manweiler told the Idaho Capital Sun on Wednesday the real work on the initiative won’t begin until January, but she is partnering with the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood Advocates of the West. Pickens Manweiler said she also hopes to work with state Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and House Minority Leader Illana Rubel, D-Boise, to draft language that would repeal Idaho’s existing abortion laws, including the near total criminal abortion ban and civil statue that grants family members the right to sue the health care provider who preforms an abortion.
Overall, Pickens Manweiler said she has been talking with potential partners and allies about launching an initiative for almost six months, since the United States Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a right to an abortion.
“The people I am interested in having a partnership with are those that have the most at stake,” Pickens Manweiler said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Idaho would not be the first state to address abortion rights on the ballot since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
According to States Newsroom reporting, voters in five states — including GOP-dominated Kentucky — backed abortion rights during the general election Tuesday.
California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont residents voted to support abortion access, or boost reproductive rights, when asked about the issue directly on their ballots this year. Kansans also backed abortion rights earlier this year, when nearly 60% of voters said they wanted to keep abortion protected under the state’s constitution, according to previous States Newsroom reporting.
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Idaho lieutenant governor candidate made abortion rights theme of election campaign
Pickens Manweiler made abortion rights and privacy two of the central themes in her campaign. She said she was not giving up the fight just because she finished second in her race against Republican Speaker of the House Scott Bedke.
“This election is not the last time you will see me — far from it,” Pickens Manweiler wrote in a written statement. “I have already begun working on to build an initiative campaign regarding abortion rights in Idaho. Women in Idaho will not stand silent as the state and a minority of extremists force us to carry unwanted pregnancies by outlawing abortion services. Stay tuned.”
Pickens Manweiler’s decision to pursue a ballot initiative on abortion rights is not a surprise. During a lengthy interview in October with the Sun, Pickens Manweiler brought up her desire to fight for a ballot initiative if she didn’t win her election and if Democrats didn’t pick up seats in the Idaho Legislature following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision repealing Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a right to an abortion.
“If we don’t see that shift, I will be one of the front runners on a ballot initiative to restore reproductive freedoms in Idaho,” Pickens Manweiler told the Sun on Oct. 11.
She also raised the possibility of a bond issue twice during her Oct. 28 statewide televised debate against Bedke.
“We are now in a void because of the United States Supreme Court decision,” Pickens Manweiler said during the debate. “What I would like to see, I would like to see all three abortion bans — the two criminal bans and the one civil ban — completely repealed. Now, because a good portion of Idaho supports abortion care, I would suggest that a ballot initiative would be quite successful in Idaho.”
How do ballot initiatives work in Idaho?
A ballot initiative is a form of direct democracy where the people of the Idaho — not the Idaho Legislature — propose laws by bringing an initiative forward to voters in an election. Similarly, a referendum is when the people of Idaho — not the Idaho Legislature — vote on whether to retain or repeal an existing law.
The last example of a successful statewide ballot initiative approved by voters came in November 2018, when 60.6% of Idaho voters approved Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative brought forward by the group Reclaim Idaho.
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To qualify an initiative for the ballot in Idaho, supporters of an initiative would need to gather signatures from 6% of the voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, as well as signatures from at least 6% of voters statewide.
In an August 2021 ruling blocking the implementation of Senate Bill 1110, a stricter new ballot initiative law passed by the Idaho Legislature, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that ballot initiatives and referendums are “fundamental rights, reserved to the people of Idaho.”
Unofficial election results released by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office on Wednesday show that Bedke won 373,761 votes, or 64%, while Pickens Manweiler won 117,450 votes, or about 31%. A third candidate, a man formerly known as Marvin Richardson who changed his name to “Pro-Life,” won 29,826 votes, or 5%.
Pickens Manweiler said she called Bedke at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to congratulate him on his victory.
“Of course, I am disappointed at the outcome, but I leave this 15 month campaign enriched by the thousands of new friends I made. It was an honor to have your vote,” Pickens Manweiler wrote in a written statement on Wednesday.
Idaho Capital Sun editor Christina Lords contributed to this report.
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