Secede from Oregon? 'Greater Idaho' is on the ballot in two conservative counties
Rural conservatives fed up with Oregon's liberal politics consider moving border to join Idaho
Many rural Oregonians fed up with the state's liberal politics want to move to Idaho — or rather, move Idaho to them.
The Greater Idaho movement proposes redrawing Oregon's borders so that about two-thirds of the Beaver State's land mass becomes part of neighboring Idaho. The movement has already gained support from nine counties in Eastern Oregon, and two more will vote on whether they want lawmakers to work on the logistics of moving the border.
"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.
Look at any election map and the problem Greater Idaho seeks to remedy is clear: By land size, Oregon appears conservative. Some counties voted nearly 80% for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. But the population centers of Portland, Eugene and Bend have made it one of the most liberal states in the country.
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"It's always been a problem because the west side has many more voters," McCaw said. "They have the numbers to dictate what happens statewide."
An urban-rural divide is nothing new, but McCaw said Eastern Oregon is unique because it borders a state that has "almost the same values."
Idaho voted 63.9% for Trump and just 33.1% for President Biden in the last presidential election. The Gem State is already a favorite moving destination among Oregonians who prefer its conservative politics or lower cost of living.
McCaw said the group envisions 15 whole counties and two partial counties joining Idaho. Nine Oregon counties have already voted in favor of exploring the idea further and two more will cast their votes in November.
If approved, the Morrow County measure will require commissioners to meet three times per year to discuss how best to promote their county's interests in "any negotiations regarding the relocation of the Oregon-Idaho state border." Wheeler County's measure would direct local officials to ask the state to proceed with plans for moving the border.
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Preliminary maps proposed including the entire southern portion of the state reaching to the Pacific Ocean, but supporters redrew the maps this year after residents of two southwestern Oregon counties voted only 47% and 49% in favor of the measure.
"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."
Even if all 17 counties approve the proposal, actually creating a Greater Idaho would face big bureaucratic hurdles. The state legislatures of both Idaho and Oregon would have to sign off on the plan, as would the U.S. Congress.
State boundaries have changed before. Maine seceded from Massachusetts in 1820. North and South Dakota were simply the Territory of Dakota before 1889. And Oregon's border with Washington was fluid until the late 1950s when the states agreed on specific geographic coordinates as the border rather than the center of the Columbia River, which can change with flooding, erosion and other factors.
There don't appear to be any examples of a large chunk of one state breaking off to join another state instead of just creating a new state (like the State of Jefferson movement, which proposes creating a new territory out of Southern Oregon and Northern California).
Lawmakers in Oregon haven't said much about the proposal so far, but their counterparts in Idaho seem open to the idea.
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This year, Idaho Rep. Barbara Ehardt introduced a resolution stating that representatives would continue discussions regarding moving the border. The resolution notes that Oregon has resources that would "be highly beneficial to Idaho," including timber, minerals and water.
Advocates for Greater Idaho were invited to share their ideas with the Idaho Legislature last year.
"I think this is a broader conversation we need to have throughout the United States and in from our rural communities to our urban areas, who… forget where their food comes from," Republican state Rep. Laurie Lickley said.
But Democratic state Sen. Michelle Stennett worried about the logistics of moving the border and nuances between the two states, such as Oregon's higher minimum wage and legalization of cannabis.
"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's Republican Gov. Brad Little even addressed the proposal in a 2020 interview on "Fox & Friends," saying he understood why Oregonians would "like to have a little more autonomy, a little more control, a little more freedom."
Now, three years after the movement began, McCaw says it's time for lawmakers in both states to start hashing out the details.
"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."
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And if the hearings happen quickly, McCaw is optimistic that the measure could soon be sent back to a vote of the people.
"By 2024, you could have a border moved," he said. "Absolutely."
State representatives for Morrow and Wheeler counties did not respond to Fox News' request for comment.
Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video.