Two conservative counties of Eastern Oregon will vote on a ballot measure this November to decide on whether to leave one of the most liberal states in the country and join their western neighbors in a newly redrawn “Greater Idaho.”
The Greater Idaho movement seeks to make 15 of Oregon’s counties and parts of two others — comprising roughly two-thirds of the Beaver State’s land area — part of Idaho.
Supporters of the movement say the largely conservative and sparsely populated eastern counties have much more in common with Republican-led Idaho than Oregon, whose politics are dominated by the state’s densely populated cities in the west.
“It makes more sense for Eastern Oregonians to get state-level governance coming from Idaho, where they share their values, share their culture, share their politics than it does to be governed by Western Oregon,” Greater Idaho spokesman Matt McCaw told Fox News.
To date, nine of Oregon’s 36 counties have voted in favor of exploring changes to the state border and two others, Morrow and Wheeler, will vote to endorse the idea on Election Day.
In Morrow County, the measure requires the county board of commissioners to meet three times a year “to discuss how best to promote their county’s interests in “any negotiations regarding the relocation of the Oregon-Idaho state border.” In Wheeler County, residents will vote to request Oregon state lawmakers to allocate tax dollars “to work towards moving the Idaho border” to include the county.
Earlier maps had the borders of “Great Idaho” extending as far as to the Pacific Ocean, however the proposed border was redrawn after less than 50% of voters in two counties in southwestern Oregon voted in favor of leaving, according to Fox News.
“Our whole core principle is that people deserve to have the kind of government that they want and that shares their values,” McCaw said. “So we don’t want to be dragging anybody into something that they don’t want.”
In the 2020 presidential election former president Donald Trump dominated Eastern Oregon, receiving nearly 80% of the vote in some counties. However, President Joe Biden ultimately carried the state with 56.5% of the votes thanks to liberal cities like Portland and Eugene.
Meanwhile, Idaho voted 63.9% for Trump and just 33.1% for Biden.
If all 17 counties approve the measure, they still face numerous hurdles to actually secede from Oregon and join Idaho. Both states’ legislatures and the U.S. Congress would have to approve the move.
While states have had their borders redrawn in the past, including Massachusetts after Maine seceded in 1820, there is no precedent for huge swaths of a state to pack up and join another existing state.
There are various logistical obstacles in redrawing state lines, such as different minimum wages and laws like Oregon’s legalization of marijuana.
“How do you blend criminal justice systems and jurisdictions? Where does your tax base come from?” Stennett asked. “There’s just a lot that isn’t being talked about that would need to be fleshed out for this to even be considered.”
Idaho lawmakers have been more open to the proposal. Earlier this year, Idaho Rep. Barbara Ehardt introduced legislation stating that lawmakers would continue discussions regarding the border with Oregon.
The resolution notes that Oregon has resources that would “be highly beneficial to Idaho,” such as timber, minerals and water, Fox reported.
If lawmakers can come together and discuss the matter quickly, McCaw said he was optimistic that the borders could be moved as soon as 2024.
“We’ve proven that people in Eastern Oregon want to pursue this idea, and we’re going to keep trying to get as many of those counties as possible to get on the ballot,” he said. “But it’s time for the legislature to pick up the ball and start this discussion.”