Five Oregon counties voted on Tuesday to instruct their county commissioners to promote moving the Oregon border so they can join the state of Idaho. Voters in Malheur, Sherman, Grant, Baker, and Lake counties all approved referendums that would grow the state of Idaho to encompass the 5 rural counties that voted in favor of the referendum along with two others — Jefferson and Union counties — who approved measures last year.
“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 Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho 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.
Joe Biden won the state of Oregon handily, 57-40. But Donald Trump carried the 5 counties with 69-79 percent of the vote. There has been a clear divide in the state between the coastal cities and the rural areas for decades, and given the nonsense coming out of Salem from far-left lawmakers who dominate the legislature, it’s really not surprising that some counties would want to secede.
Idaho Governor Brad Little has no problem with the idea of incorporating Oregon counties into his state, but the effort is doomed to failure.
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.
“We need to unite our neighbors around the idea of moving the border so that we can convince state legislators to stop holding our counties captive in a blue state,” McCarter added. But the legislature is not likely to approve a measure that would subtract 75 percent of Oregon’s land and give it to Idaho.
This used to be America’s big divide — farms vs. cities. As the nation became more homogeneous, that rivalry faded as we found other things to divide us — race, class, ideology. While the divide in Oregon is ideological, it also pits rural values against the values of big cities. In that sense, it’s a throwback.
It’s a unique exercise in constitutional government, even if it will never happen.