The U.S. Supreme Court has put a halt to the Reclaim Idaho K-12 initiative drive.

Thursday’s ruling represents a legal victory for Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, who requested a stay of a lower court ruling allowing Reclaim Idaho to gather online signatures for its “Invest in Idaho” initiative. The Supreme Court’s ruling remains in place until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments on Aug. 13 and decides on the Reclaim Idaho lawsuit.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes,” Little said in a statement Thursday. “It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho.”

Thursday’s decision comes after two federal courts gave Reclaim Idaho the green light to gather signatures online. Reclaim Idaho’s initiative would generate $170 million to $200 million per year, by increasing corporate taxes and income taxes for Idahoans making more than $250,000 or couples making more than $500,000 annually. The money would go into a dedicated fund for K-12.

Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville downplayed Thursday’s decision, telling EdNews that the ruling would not halt the group’s signature drive, which began in mid-July.

“The decision only means that county clerks will not be required to verify signatures during the next two weeks,” Mayville said. “The 9th Circuit Court will decide our case on Aug. 13, and we are confident they will rule in our favor.”

Thursday’s ruling marks the latest in a courtroom battle that has reached three levels of the federal judiciary:

  • June 23: U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said Little and Denney violated Reclaim Idaho’s First Amendment rights by not accommodating the group’s request to continue signature gathering during the coronavirus outbreak. The group suspended in-person signature gathering in March.
  • July 9: A Circuit Court panel upheld Winmill’s order, granting Reclaim Idaho 48 days to gather electronically the 30,000 signatures needed to get its initiative on the November ballot. That ruling gave Reclaim Idaho an Aug. 26 deadline to qualify for the ballot.
  • July 14: The state asked the Supreme Court to put electronic signature gathering on hold.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.