Elections

Medicaid supporters submit their signatures - and wait to hear if we'll vote this fall

Republican lawmaker: Idaho’s Medicaid expansion is a ‘human issue’

Republican Idaho Rep. Christy Perry is co-chair of the Medicaid expansion initiative. She spoke July 6, 2018, as supporters delivered signatures to the Capitol to put the measure on the fall ballot.
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Republican Idaho Rep. Christy Perry is co-chair of the Medicaid expansion initiative. She spoke July 6, 2018, as supporters delivered signatures to the Capitol to put the measure on the fall ballot.

Now, we wait.

Supporters of legalizing gambling machines that allow users to bet on taped horse races delivered boxes of voter signatures to the Idaho Secretary of State's Office last week.

On Friday, backers of an initiative seeking a vote on Medicaid expansion showed up to deliver their petitions.

Both efforts have already been reviewed by county clerks across the state. In order for either initiative to receive a statewide vote this fall, the secretary of state must now verify that they secured signatures from a certain percentage of voters across at least 18 of Idaho's 35 legislative districts. Each initiative must also have received at least 56,192 signatures overall — 6 percent of the people who could participate in the November 2016 general election.

Both campaigns say they've met that hurdle.

Medicaid campaign co-chair and state Rep. Christy Perry argued Friday that expansion has broad geographic and political support across the state. The Republican from Nampa unsuccessfully sought legislative action last spring to help Idahoans who earn too much for Medicaid, but too little for financial assistance through this state's health insurance exchange.

"This is not a partisan issue. It's not a political issue. It's a human issue," Perry said in front of the Statehouse in Boise. "And the reason for the strong support across this state is very simple: This policy helps people."

Critics of Medicaid expansion have already started work to oppose the measure. Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, in an email Friday declared that "the media aren't telling the truth" about expansion, writing that he believes the role of out-of-state interests has been downplayed.

Friday was the last day organizers could get their petitions to the secretary of state for the November ballot.

These are the first major ballot measures the secretary of state has handled since 2013, when the requirement for the 18 legislative districts was added. The extra verification work has slowed the counting, but the office is adapting and tweaking its processes, said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst.

"It's going faster now," he said Friday.

Disabled Idaho veteran Josh Blessinger describes his wife's painful health issues during a July 6, 2018 rally delivering petitions for a public vote on Medicaid expansion.

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