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Why Are Oregon Counties Voting to Join Idaho?

Why Are Oregon Counties Voting to Join Idaho?

The Greater Idaho movement might be the most tangible and effective political rebellion taking place today in America.

You’ll find no anarchists in its ranks, however. This movement is led by humble rural conservatives and has gained breathtaking traction through little more than grassroots activism and democratic participation.

The latest development: Last week, residents of Crook County in eastern Oregon voted in favor of starting negotiations to secede from their state and come under the jurisdiction of Idaho.

Incredibly, Crook County is the 13th county to pass the measure. Since  2020, 17 of Oregon’s 36 counties—or almost half the counties in the Beaver State—have voted on the “Greater Idaho” proposal, and only four have rejected it.

Greater Idaho Logo“The voters of eastern Oregon have spoken loudly and clearly about their desire to see border talks move forward,” Greater Idaho Executive Director Matt McCaw said in a statement, according to News Nation. “With this latest result in Crook County, there’s no excuse left for the Legislature and Governor to continue to ignore the people’s wishes.”

McCaw also stated, “We call on the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate President to sit down with us and discuss next steps towards changing governance for eastern Oregonians, as well as for the legislature to begin holding hearings on what a potential border change will look like.”

If ultimately successful, the Greater Idaho movement would redraw the state border 200 miles to the west, reducing the geographical size of Oregon by around 70 percent. Idaho would gain every county east of the Oregon Cascades and grow in size by a whopping 80 percent. A second phase could even see portions of northern California secede to join Idaho.

The movement, which has gained national attention, began just four years ago, as reported at the time by Intellectual Takeout.

So, why are Oregon counties voting to join Idaho?

“The Oregon/Idaho line was established 163 years ago and is now outdated,” the movement explains on its website. “It makes no sense in its current location because it doesn’t match the location of the cultural divide in Oregon.”

This week, McCaw appeared in an interview with Fox News Digital to comment on the latest development, making a compelling case for his movement’s proposal.

“The state of Oregon is divided geographically by the Cascade Mountain Range and that geographic divide is also a huge cultural divide,” he said. “So, on the west side of Oregon you have a different climate, it’s a different economy, it’s a different culture and more urban. It’s a very different place than the east side, where there are agricultural people who are very conservative and traditional.”

McCaw explained that the state of Oregon is currently engaged in a political tug-of-war between these two vastly different groups.

“Eastern Oregonians are very different from western Oregonians,” he said. “You can take almost any issue that is a political hot topic, whether that’s immigration or taxes or abortion or gun rights or drug criminalization … and what the people of Eastern Oregon want for their communities is different from what the people of Western Oregon want.”

The COVID era especially exacerbated these differences, McCaw noted.

“During COVID, the state of Oregon was one of the most extreme. They closed businesses across the state, they closed churches across the state, they closed schools, they imposed mask mandates and later vaccine mandates,” he explained.

McCaw believes Oregon’s “heavy handed” COVID rules helped “supercharge” the Greater Idaho movement.

He argues that the movement he leads presents a long-term solution to the “partisan bickering” happening within the state—one that will “lower political tension” and “create win-wins for everybody involved.”

It all sounds well and good, but is the movement McCaw leads all just a pipe dream?

As critics and skeptics of the movement have often noted, enthusiasm and even local ballot measures will not be enough to carry the day. For the proposal to succeed, the legislatures of both states would have to approve the measure, and then it would also need a green light from the U.S. Congress.

Even so, common sense dictates that conservative Idaho would be more than happy to grow their state by 65,000 square miles and 800,000 mostly conservative residents.

The major hurdle, then, would be lawmakers in Salem, Oregon. Can they, too, be persuaded? Would they be able to let go of a tax base of so many people?

Certainly, the rural-urban divide is, for now, here to stay, but could this be the way for voters in places like rural Oregon to once again feel like their voices are heard in politics? Or is this just another way for Americans to further the nation’s divide?

Watch this space. The Greater Idaho movement isn’t going away anytime soon.

Image credits: Greater Idaho

Kurt Mahlburg
Kurt Mahlburg

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  • Avatar
    Phil Hawkins
    May 30, 2024, 3:57 pm

    There is another factor, one that goes back many years. Back in the '60s, the Warren court ruled that states with a two-house legislature had to apportion the upper house (usually called the state Senate) by population. Before that case, most state senates were done by county, in imitation of the US Senate's apportionment by state. The court ruled that counties were not sovereign units as the states were, and said apportionment by counties was unconstitutional. Before that ruling, rural areas had enough votes in the state senates to keep some control over the lower house, which was dominated by urban populations. Since then, the large cities have had greater control over state governments. And it is bearing fruit today: not only Oregon, either. Most of Illinois would like to kick out Chicago. There has been a movement growing for some years to divide California into 4 or 5 states, over cultural differences. And much of upstate New York does not like being dominated by NYC. The western counties of Maryland would like to join West Virginia, which is more like them culturally, instead of being dominated by Baltimore.

  • Avatar
    May 31, 2024, 2:22 am

    Phil, below, is on the mark. The political, cultural, social,, economic divides are NOT the Cascade ridge, Not at all. The true divide is the upper Willamette Valley (about Eugene north to the Columbia) which is also the I 5 Corridor, again from about Eugene northward into Vancouver. as distinct from the rest of the State. I have spent considerable time throughout my life in Oregon, and have known well many people both in the Portland Metro area and scattered through the rest of the state.

    WshingtonState is very similarly divided in much the same way…Vancouver metro area, thn from about Olympia northward to Everett

    The chances of this move succeeding through the State Legislatures is somewhere around five hundred miles brelow the dirt upon which I 5 is resting. The greedy, perverted, and corrupt state legislatures will not sit idly by as the "good" parts of the state(s) pick a fine time to leave the Loose Wheel. Economics are only a small (though significant) part of the equation. the main issue is WHO will control the rest. The ruling party have determined this will NEVER be the real folks who disagree with them.

  • Avatar
    Barbara Nelson
    May 31, 2024, 7:23 am

    Now Eastern Washington should do the same; and northern California and northern Arizona should join together.

  • Avatar
    Grover Syck
    May 31, 2024, 3:20 pm

    The name of the group should be "lesser eastern Idaho". This is insane.
    Any time the conservatives get their way, it is a mess.

  • Avatar
    June 5, 2024, 6:56 am

    If you listen to the Left, they claim the state spends more money in E. Oregon than they collect in taxes. The are probably correct. What makes this a win-win proposition is the citizen of E. Oregon don't want all those government expenditures. So move it to Idaho and the more restrained fiscal environment in Idaho will lead to a closer balance. The beauty of the Greater Idaho movement is it doesn't seek to overturn the national balance of power so it has a chance to pass Congress. It would probably move 1-2 Republican House seats from Oregon to Idaho so no net change. Making states more politically homogenous would lower the temperature of politics. We also gain some practical experience in dividing up assets and liabilities. Physical stuff is pretty obvious but things like the state retirement system are fraught. Oregon would need to transfer both assets and liabilities to Idaho. Benefits are probably different so you would need to talk about grandfathering people.


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