In rural Oregon, voters in several counties want their state to go from Democratic blue to Republican red — and to do that, they hope to leave Oregon altogether and join neighboring Idaho. Five counties approved ballot measures this week, joining two others that had already voted in favor of the idea.
“This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon,” said Mike McCarter, president of the advocacy group Citizens for Greater Idaho.
He added, “If we’re allowed to vote for which government officials we want, we should be allowed to vote for which government we want as well.”
All seven counties voted heavily for former President Donald Trump — whose name appears 17 times in the advocacy group’s 41-page proposal to shift the borders.
In the movement led by McCarter, conservative voters want to reshuffle counties in eastern and southern Oregon, making them part of Idaho. The plan’s backers want to get ballot initiatives placed on the ballot in more of Oregon’s 36 counties.
Despite seven counties now backing it, the push to secede is not likely to succeed. As Oregon Public Broadcasting notes, “the Oregon and Idaho legislatures and the U.S. Congress would need to sign off” on the plan.
In the face of those long odds, supporters of the plan say extending Idaho’s western boundary far into Oregon would benefit people and lawmakers in both states. They say people in rural Oregon have values and economies that more closely align with those in Idaho.
The ballot initiatives that were endorsed this week stop short of demanding an immediate departure from Oregon. Voters in Sherman County and Grant County, for instance, backed measures that urge officials to discuss the idea of relocating the border and to promote the plan if it’s in the counties’ best interests.
Among the five counties that approved the measures this week, the weakest support was in Malheur County, which sits across the border from Idaho’s capital, Boise. As organizers of the “Move Oregon’s Border” plan note, the county recently saw a spike in tax receipts from the $10 million of cannabis sold there each month. Cannabis is legal in Oregon but not in Idaho.
On the political front, organizers predict that voters in Oregon “will be glad to get rid of ‘Trump-voting low-income counties.’ ” They also say that with fewer Republicans in the legislature, Oregon’s Democratic lawmakers wouldn’t have to worry about political deadlock.
As for what Idaho would gain under the plan, backers say the Gem State would get a large boost in its population, as well as a large chunk of new territory — extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean, if the plan to lop off part of southern Oregon were to become reality.
If the strategy of relocating a large swath of Oregon into Idaho were to succeed, organizers say, Idaho would also benefit from having direct access to the coast, just south of Eugene.
And the group notes, “Idaho would have the satisfaction of freeing 1.2 million people from blue state law.”
Showing a bit of swagger, the group adds, “rural Oregon counties would strengthen Idaho by paying more than their share of Idaho’s state taxes, because they will have higher average incomes than Idaho does.”
If the strategy of moving a large swath of Oregon succeeded, organizers say, they would turn to “Phase 2” — adding conservative-leaning counties in Northern California to Idaho. That goal may be a long shot, but backers say it has more chance of succeeding than recent pushes to carve a 51st state out of California.