Five more rural counties in Oregon have voted to support efforts to leave Oregon and become part of Idaho instead.
The five counties — Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman — are the latest to back an idea put forth to Idaho lawmakers by a group called Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho. The “Greater Idaho” movement, as the organization also refers to itself, has been pushing a plan to move Idaho’s border so that it encompasses more conservative counties in Oregon, Northern California and southeastern Washington — something that would create the nation’s third-largest state.
“We promote the idea of creating a greater (bigger & stronger) Idaho so that conservative counties can become a part of a red state,” the Greater Idaho organization writes on its website.
President Joe Biden easily won Washington, Oregon and California in November, while President Donald Trump carried Idaho with 64%.
The five counties in support of the idea join two others — Jefferson and Union — who previously voted in support of the movement, which ideally hopes to flip around three-quarters of Oregon (by area) to Idaho.
These votes do not actually determine whether a county can leave the state, but rather are intended to put pressure on lawmakers to discuss the idea. When the plan was presented to the Idaho Legislature in April, however, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressed skepticism.
“How is it being received right now by the state of Oregon?” asked Republican Rep. Ben Adams when the idea was pitched in April. “How hard would they be fighting to make it not happen? Most states don’t like to lose their resources to their neighbors.”
Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett further noted that the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whole four dollars more than in Idaho, meaning that counties who flip would need to be agreeable to a pay cut for hourly workers.
The president of Greater Idaho organization, meanwhile, is still confident that parts of Oregon want “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 McCarter in a statement obtained by The Oregonian. “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.”
On its website, the Greater Idaho movement had ideally proposed that Idaho “accept” dozens of Oregon counties along with a handful of counties in northern California and southeastern Washington, so that the Idaho border extends to the Pacific Ocean. This, as the group explained on its FAQ page, seemed more plausible than flipping Oregon red, or being granted its own state entirely.
As the group also acknowledges, the strategy is a “long shot,” as the Democratic-controlled Oregon legislature, the Idaho legislature and Congress would ultimately need to approve.
Greater Idaho’s efforts, however, are not entirely new. Counties in California have voiced support to establish the State of Jefferson. More recently, another bill introduced by Minnesota State Rep. Jeremy Munson (R) had proposed allowing Minnesota counties to request approval to be “excluded” from the state — and possibly join South Dakota.