Five Oregon counties will ask voters in the next election whether they want to detach from the deep-blue state and join neighboring red-state Idaho.
Move Oregon’s Border, also known as Greater Idaho, confirmed Tuesday that the initiative to move swaths of largely rural eastern and southern Oregon into Idaho qualified for the May 18 special election ballot in five counties: Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman.
In Baker County, organizers far exceeded the 496 signatures required by submitting 746, with the clerk reporting that 630 were accepted. The county population is about 16,000.
“Oregon is a powder keg because counties that belong in a red-state like Idaho are ruled by Portlanders,” said Mike McCarter, president of Move Oregon’s Border, in a statement.
He cited the impact of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s novel coronavirus restrictions; ongoing Antifa unrest in Portland; a state task force’s unsuccessful effort to prioritize “Black, Indigenous and people of color” for novel coronavirus vaccines, and what he described as the state legislature’s bias in favor of Portland over rural communities.
“This state protects Antifa arsonists, not normal Oregonians, it prioritizes one race above another for vaccines and program money and in the school curriculum, and it prioritizes Willamette Valley above rural Oregon,” Mr. McCarter said.
So far, the Move Oregon’s Borders movement is batting .500. In November, voters in two counties approved measures requiring county commissioners to hold meetings about relocating the state border. Two other counties defeated the measure.
“Divisions in Oregon are getting dangerous, so we see the relocation of the border as a way to keep the peace. It’s not divisive,” Mr. McCarter said. “Oregon and Idaho are already divided by a state line. The problem is that the location of the state line was decided 161 years ago and is now outdated. Its current location doesn’t match the cultural divide in Oregon.”
Opponents have said disgruntled rural Oregonians should just move to Idaho, but Mr. McCarter said it isn’t that simple.
“We love our communities. We’re tied into them,” he said. “It’s just the state government that we can’t stand.”
Oregon Democrats control the governorship, all state constitutional offices and both houses of the state legislature.
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said that the Greater Idaho campaign concerns him, saying, “I hope we’d never look at that.”
“I don’t think we would, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act like it wouldn’t happen, because if we act like it, then maybe we’ll really sit down and really think real hard about this rural-urban divide,” said Mr. Courtney, a Democrat, in a Dec. 7 interview on KATU-TV.
Move Oregon’s Border has a high bar to clear: Any state line reconfiguration would require the approval of the relevant state legislatures as well as Congress. The group is also reaching out to northern California counties.
Organizers suffered a setback in January when Facebook removed a group page, which had 12,000 followers, as well as those of Mr. McCarter and another administrator. Move Oregon’s Borders still has a presence on Twitter, MeWe, Parler, Gab and Telegram.
“We don’t know why because Facebook won’t show us the six posts it claims violated their standards,” said the press release.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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