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Idaho to appeal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little said on July 10 that he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling rejecting his request to put on hold a court order forcing the state to count online signatures for an initiative backers hope to get on the November ballot.

The Republican governor announced the decision not long after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his request.

“We will continue our efforts to preserve the integrity of Idaho’s duly enacted laws and to prevent the disruption to our upcoming elections that this decision will cause,” Little said in a statement.

The education funding initiative seeks to raise $170 million for K-12 education by raising Idaho’s corporate tax rate and increasing taxes on individuals making $250,000 a year or higher.

The ruling from the appeals court means supporters can begin collecting online signatures for the initiative.

The appeals court didn’t rule on the merits of the case, but has set an expedited schedule to hear arguments.

“We’re going to actively start gathering signatures next week,” said Jeremy Gugino, a spokesman for Reclaim Idaho.

Reclaim Idaho, a group that backs initiatives, in the lawsuit filed last month said that Little’s statewide stay-at-home order in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic didn’t include exceptions for ballot initiative signature gathering.

The group in the lawsuit against Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, also a Republican, said that violated the First Amendment-protected process of signature gathering, a form of political speech.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed with Reclaim Idaho and ordered the state to choose between accepting online signatures or simply putting the education funding initiative on the November ballot. When Idaho didn’t respond, Winmill ordered the state to collect online signatures or allow Reclaim Idaho to do so.

Idaho has never allowed electronic signatures for ballot initiatives, and contends it undermines the state’s election process.

Little, calling Winmill’s order “judicial activism,” appealed and requested a stay in the case, which has now been denied.

Scott Graf, spokesman for the Idaho attorney general’s office, said that office had no comment.

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