Oregon Counties Vote to Merge With GOP-Favoring Idaho

May 23, 2021 by Dan McCue

A majority of voters in five rural Oregon counties on Tuesday said they’d rather leave their state than continue to be a Republican minority in a decidedly blue place.

Instead, residents of Sherman, Lake, Grant, Baker, and Malheur counties endorsed non-binding ballot measures that would have them be absorbed into neighboring Idaho.

In doing so, they joined two other Oregon counties, Union and Jefferson, that had already voted in favor of succession in November.

“This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon,” said Mike McCarter, president of the advocacy group Citizens for Greater Idaho, after the votes were counted.

“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,” he said.

All seven counties voted heavily for former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020 — in fact, his name appears 17 times in the advocacy group’s 41-page proposal to shift the borders.

According to the movement’s website, conservative voters want to reshuffle counties in eastern and southern Oregon and they’re willing to take some of northern California too, making them part of a new “Greater Idaho.” 

The plan’s backers want to get ballot initiatives placed on the ballot in more of Oregon’s 36 counties.

On Tuesday, residents of Sherman County voted for a ballot initiative that makes county commissioners responsible for promoting “the interests of the County in the relocation of Idaho state borders.” 

Four other counties voted for a ballot initiative that requires county commissioners to meet periodically to “discuss how to promote the interests of [the county] in any negotiations regarding relocations of Idaho state borders.”

On average, about 62% of voters in the region voted in favor of leaving Oregon, with the greatest amount of support being in Lake County, where the vote was 74%-26%, and the lowest, in Malheur County, where the measure still passed 54%-46%.

McCarter said the outcome in Malheur County was particularly noteworthy because the county and city government have received a windfall from the sale of cannabis, which is illegal in Idaho. 

“Despite this, Malheur County voters found enough reasons to favor the proposal,” his website notes.

Even with seven counties now backing it, the push to secede is not likely to go very far. For that to happen, it would have to win the approval of both the Oregon and Idaho legislatures, and Congress would have to sign off on the plan as well.

But McCarter’s group remains hopeful.

“If a deal were made that two state legislatures pass, a border change would almost certainly become a reality,” its proposal says. “According to a peer-reviewed law journal, “Prior to 1921, 36 compacts between states were put into effect with the consent of Congress; virtually all of these settled boundaries between contiguous states.”

“If Oregon really believes in liberal values such as self-determination, the Legislature won’t hold our counties captive against our will,” McCarter said.

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