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“Greater Idaho” measure passes in Oregon’s 13th county

A 13th county voted this month for a hopeless proposal to redraw the state lines between Oregon and Idaho.

Voters in Crook County, located near the middle of Oregon, supported a ballot proposal put forward in May by the Greater Idaho organization. The proposal passed with 53% of the vote (or 5,086 votes) and notified the Crook County Court that voters “support further negotiations regarding a possible relocation of the Oregon-Idaho border to include Crook County.”

It is not directly a vote on secession from Oregon, but rather a symbolic measure to show the mood of voters. Counties do not have the power to leave or join a state, and moving the border would require the approval of the Idaho and Oregon legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

Changing state boundaries doesn't seem to happen often. In 1961, a small portion of the border between Minnesota and North Dakota was changed for flood control reasons. The Greater Idaho movement, however, seeks a much larger territorial division – and not because of something as simple as the flow of a river. This division would have political significance.

Map showing where in Oregon counties voters supported measures to consider moving Oregon's border westward.

Supporters of the movement argue that eastern Oregon is more culturally and politically connected to Idaho, and that redrawing the border to include those counties would address concerns among rural Oregonians who feel neglected by the more densely populated and left-leaning counties in western Oregon.

The political landscape of the two states is quite different. Cannabis and abortion are illegal in Idaho. Idaho has a lower minimum wage and a sales tax.

“For the past three years, we have asked voters directly what they want for their state government,” said Mike McCarter, president of the Greater Idaho Movement, in a statement about the Crook County results. “With these votes, they are telling us they want their politicians to move the line. In our system, the people are the ones who call the shots, and it's time for the politicians who represent them to do the same.”

Crook County joins 12 other counties that have passed ballot measures since 2020 directing officials to address the boundary change: Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler. Voters in two counties – Douglas and Josephine – rejected measures favoring Greater Idaho in 2022. (Wallowa County, which previously rejected a Greater Idaho measure, voted on the issue again in 2023. It passed by 7 votes.)

— Samantha Swindler reports for The Oregonian/OregonLive and Here is OregonYou can reach them at sswindler@oregonian.com.

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