Idaho Attorney General Sued Over Misleading Ballot Titles
WASHINGTON — Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador is being sued over an initiative he filed June 30 to replace partisan primaries with open top-four elections for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Legislature and other offices.
The initiative was filed last month by Idahoans for Open Primaries, a coalition group that includes the citizen advisory group Reclaim Idaho, to make the state’s primary elections more accessible by implementing ranked-choice voting in general elections.
According to Idaho legislation, the attorney general is responsible for evaluating proposed ballot initiatives and assigning them “ballot titles.” These titles serve as concise summaries of the initiatives’ objectives and are displayed on the ballot for voters to consider.
Last Monday advocates of the open primary ballot initiative submitted a legal objection urging the Idaho Supreme Court to invalidate the ballot titles for the initiative assigned by Labrador’s office, alleging it provided misleading information.
“The titles assigned by the attorney general contain material inaccuracies concerning the nature and purpose of the initiative and reflect his public opposition to it,” the court filing reads.
In the ballot titles, Labrador claimed that the initiative “would require voting for each candidate on the ballot in order of preference.” However, the initiative states, “Voters are not required to rank every candidate.”
Additionally, Labrador also described the proposed primary system as a “nonparty blanket primary.” Attorneys for the coalition wrote that this phrase is “an obscure term that is almost entirely absent from common usage” and that “open primary” is the preferred term.
“In dereliction of his official duties, the attorney general has prepared ballot titles that do not conform to the law,” attorneys for the group wrote in the lawsuit. “He has instead drafted titles that express his strong bias against the initiative and his intention to use his power to defeat it.”
Meanwhile, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office maintains its support for the ballot titles.
“AG Labrador has furnished a ballot measure title with a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure and without prejudice or partisanship, consistent with his requirements under Idaho law,” Beth Cahill, communications director for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, wrote in a statement issued July 3.
“If it is required, we will be happy to defend the AG’s fulfillment of his statutory duties in litigation.”
The legal complaint requested that the Idaho Supreme Court dismiss Labrador’s titles in favor of those proposed by the coalition while also granting the group an extension to gather signatures.
The coalition must gather signatures from 6% (approximately 63,000 individuals) of Idaho voters registered for the most recent general election to be eligible for inclusion on the November 2024 general election ballot. Additionally, they must obtain signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts before May 1.