State Watch

Oregon counties vote to secede to Idaho

Voters in five rural Oregon counties approved measures on Tuesday to consider joining the state of Idaho, a part of a long-shot grassroots movement to break with a state dominated by liberal voters west of the Cascade Mountains.

Voters in Malheur, Sherman, Grant, Baker and Lake counties all approved measures that would require county officials to take steps to promote moving the Idaho border west to incorporate their populations. 

Oregon voters favored President Biden over former President Trump by a 56 percent to 40 percent margin in 2020, but voters in those five rural counties gave between 69 percent and 79 percent of the vote to Trump. 

They join two other rural counties — Jefferson and Union — whose voters approved measures promoting a move to Idaho last year.

The local measures are backed by Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, a local organization that wants to grow Idaho west and south into some counties in Northern California.

“This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon. If Oregon really believes in liberal values such as self-determination, the Legislature won’t hold our counties captive against our will,” said Mike McCarter, a conservative activist who heads the group. “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.”

Sherman County’s ballot initiative required county commissioners to promote realigning the borders. The other four counties require commissioners to meet a few times a year to discuss the prospects of moving state lines.

Sherman, Jefferson and Lake counties are just east of the Cascade Mountains. Union, Baker, Grant and Malheur are farther east, and Malheur and Baker abut the current border with Idaho.

Voters in Harney County, east of the Cascades, and Douglas County, on the Pacific Coast, will vote on similar measures in future elections. 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) has said he supports incorporating more Oregonians within his state’s borders. But altering state lines is extremely unlikely.  

Actually moving the lines would require a vote from the Oregon legislature, which is firmly controlled by Democrats. Oregon and Idaho would have to strike a formal deal, which would then need to be ratified by the U.S. Congress.

Congress has only approved measures to change state lines on three occasions: Kentucky was carved out of territory previously owned by Virginia in 1792. Maine was carved out of Massachusetts in 1820. And West Virginia was admitted to the union in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, as Union counties separated themselves from the Confederacy.

State Watch