Wednesday, May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021

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2 rural Oregon counties vote to consider joining Idaho; Move Oregon’s Border dream remains long shot

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Voters in Union and Jefferson counties say they want their slice of Oregon to become part of Idaho.

To be more precise, a majority who cast ballots in those rural counties decided to require that their county commissioners hold meetings about relocating the border.

In Jefferson County, 5,655 residents — 51.02% — voted for the measure. In Union, 7,401 — 52.42% — supported it.

The measure also was on the ballot in Wallowa County but fell just short, with 2,429 (49.53%) voting yes and 2,475 (50.47%) voting no.

A similar measure failed in Douglas County, with 26,404 (43.27%) voting in favor of considering moving the border into Idaho and 34,621 (56.73%) voting against it.

“I want to thank all those who voted and those who got signatures [to put the measure on the ballot],” chief petitioner Mike McCarter told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “We’re a grass-roots movement. This is a beginning.”

McCarter, a retired La Pine resident who heads up Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, is seeking to have 22 counties total in eastern and southern Oregon vote on the idea of Idaho taking over rural Oregon. (Oregon has 36 counties.) He says rural Oregonians love Oregon but would prefer to live under Idaho’s more conservative governance.

He also would like some rural counties in northern California to join Idaho. He calls the border-adjustment movement a “peaceful revolution.”

The coronavirus pandemic this year made the Move Oregon’s Border signature-collection effort more difficult than anticipated, and it failed to get a federal judge to reduce the number of required signatures. As a result, the measure only made it on the ballot in four counties.

McCarter says he’s working to get on the ballot in 11 more counties in 2021.

The movement is in many ways merely symbolic. Even if all of Oregon’s eastern and southern counties did vote to join Idaho, that wouldn’t make it so. The Oregon and Idaho legislatures — and the U.S. Congress — would have to act, and the possibility of those series of legislative events happening is unlikely under any scenario.

McCarter hopes that an expression of popular will through the Move Oregon’s Border measure would get the Oregon and Idaho legislatures to take up negotiations over the issue. But more realistically, he aims for it to prompt Oregon’s lawmakers to take rural Oregon concerns more seriously.

“I would like the Oregon Legislature majority to know that they may pass laws to help urban areas, but they should remember that these laws affect every part of the state. I hope that the vote [on moving the border] speaks out on what’s going on in rural Oregon.”

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