Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrusa

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Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrusa is the name of a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Coalition for Bears, term limits proponent Don Morgan, and the I&R Institute against then-Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa challenging Idaho's distribution requirement.

Under the law that was challenged, petitioners had to gather 6% of the state's registered voters at the most recent general election from 22 of the 44 counties in the state.[1]

On November 30, 2001, a U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted relief to the plaintiffs, and declared Idaho's geographic distribution requirement for signatures on initiative petitions unconstitutional on the grounds that the restrictions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Winmill's ruling is the first time that a court threw out a county-based distribution requirement.[2]

Because more than 60% of Idaho's registered voters are located in 9 counties, the judge ruled the requirement to be unfair. He wrote, " easy to envision a situation where three-fourths of Idaho's voters sign a petition but fail to get it on the ballot because they could not collect 6 percent of the vote in rural counties." Since Idaho passed the geographic distribution requirement in 1997, no initiatives have qualified for the ballot.

The 2001 decision was appealed by the state of Idaho to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2003. The higher court affirmed the lower court's ruling.[3]

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