Greater Idaho, May 19, 2021
Five counties in eastern Oregon voted for becoming a part of Idaho on May 18: Sherman, Lake, Grant, Baker, and Malheur counties. No counties voted against. The average was 62% in favor. Two additional Oregon counties had already voted in favor in November: Union and Jefferson.
In the five counties that voted on this issue, the average turnout was 43%, much higher than the statewide average of 25% for this election.
The ballot measures are a part of an effort to move the Oregon/Idaho border to extend Idaho’s jurisdiction over rural, conservative counties of eastern and southern Oregon. The ballot measures are intended to put pressure on the state legislatures of Oregon and Idaho to negotiate an interstate compact to relocate their common border. “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, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, “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 voted for a ballot initiative that makes county commissioners responsible for promoting “the interests of the County in the relocation of Idaho state borders.” Four other counties voted for a ballot initiative that requires county commissioners to meet periodically to “discuss how to promote the interests of [the county] in any negotiations regarding relocations of Idaho state borders.”
Idaho’s governor and the leadership of both houses of the Idaho legislature support the border relocation, and dozens of legislators have indicated their support, according to McCarter. He said Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R) and Rep. Judy Boyle (R) plan to introduce legislation toward that goal in January. Last year, Rep. Ehardt, an athlete and coach, pioneered a nationwide trend when she introduced legislation to keep biological males out of girls’ sports competitions.
Several ways in which the border relocation would benefit Idahoans are listed on greateridaho.org , the website of Citizens for Greater Idaho. The site states that adding Oregon counties to Idaho will take some pressure off Idaho’s housing market by giving people more counties to choose from as they move into Idaho to gain political refuge from blue states. The group also explains that rural Oregon counties would strengthen Idaho by paying more than their share of Idaho’s state taxes, because they will have higher average incomes than Idaho does.
The election results this week were much stronger than the results in November. “We got on the ballot too early in those counties, before voters had heard of the idea, and before we could educate them on the benefits of joining Idaho, and before we had money for ads. The results this week prove that we were right to spend a little money on educating the voters in these counties. We only spent a tenth of the spending per voter that a typical state senator campaign spends, but it was enough. Now we need to raise funds for the next counties. Greater Idaho will be on the ballot in Douglas, Harney, and probably several other counties where citizens are still collecting signatures or asking county commissioners to put it on the ballot,” McCarter said. “Crook County commissioners invited us to a meeting next week to discuss putting it on the ballot.”
In Oregon, several state legislators have been quoted in the press in support of the border relocation. Reasons the Oregon Legislature should want to let rural Oregon join Idaho were given by McCarter: “In 2019, the average northwestern Oregonian wage-earner subsidized eastern/southern Oregon counties by $367 per year. Are they willing to keep paying that, just so that Oregon looks big on a map? Letting these counties go would mean the Oregon Legislature would avoid gridlock when Republican legislators walk out to try to deny a quorum. We list more reasons at greateridaho.org”
Even Malheur County voted in favor, by 54%. Most Malheur County residents already live within a couple miles of Idaho, and recently the county and city government has received a windfall of tax receipts from the $10 million per month of cannabis sold in the County, which is illegal in Idaho. Despite this, Malheur County voters found enough reasons to favor the proposal. Citizens for Greater Idaho touted Idaho’s overall lower tax burden and American values.