Backgrounder: Intro to Greater Idaho

Q: Can borders legally be relocated?  

A: State lines have been relocated many times in American history because it just takes an interstate compact between two state legislatures and approval of Congress. We explain more in the first two pages of our proposal (pdf).  Our strategy for accomplishing it is here.

What is this idea? Who is affected?

Northwestern Oregon is embarking on social experiments: a cultural revolution that rural counties want no part of.  Eastern Oregon has a different culture and values.  Eastern Oregon votes even more Republican than Idaho does. 

Our proposal would put 14 eastern Oregon counties and 3 partial eastern Oregon counties under the governance of Idaho instead of Oregon. This is 62% of the land area of Oregon and 9% of the population of Oregon. As this area has a population of 386,000 (in 2022), and Idaho has a population of almost 2 million, it would increase the population of Idaho by 20% in phase 1.   

The original version of phase 1 included all 5 counties of southwestern Oregon, but those counties were temporarily excluded from  phase 1, pending proof that the counties wish to be included in the proposal (two counties voted 53% and 51% against the idea in May 2022).

Phase 2 is optional. It would add to Idaho five counties of northeastern California (plus Plumas County, perhaps), with a population less than 350,000 and/or 3 small counties (plus two small towns) of southeastern Washington with a total population less than 31,000. 

Under phase 1, Idaho would become the fifth largest state in the Union, almost tying Montana in land area. But it would have twice the population of Montana.  Maps are available here.

The Chances of Greater Idaho happening

We are confident that we will convince Idaho to accept our counties.  Polling there is very strong.

Congress usually approves interstate compacts approved by both a blue state and a red state.  It approves several interstate compacts per year.

Votes on our ballot initiatives show that our proposal is approved by 62% of voters in eastern Oregon.

We expect that the chances of the Greater Idaho movement being successful depend entirely on whether we are able to convince northwestern Oregon to let our counties go.  In July 2021 we published an op-ed in the most widely-read newspaper in the state explaining why northwestern Oregon should want to let us go:  our counties are a drag on the budget, and our state representatives are causing gridlock in the Oregon Legislature. www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2021/07/opinion-shifting-oregon-idaho-border-can-help-us-all-live-in-peace.html

Perhaps our chances are less than 50/50 at this moment in history, but we know that we have a shot.  Plus, the political environment can change. 

Our strategy for accomplishing our goal is here.

Support for Greater Idaho

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.  Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R) and Rep. Judy Boyle (R) plan to introduce legislation in the next session. The Idaho public strongly supports moving the border according to a Trafalgar group poll.

SurveyUSA did a poll of 1068 voters of northwestern Oregon and found that only 3% are willing to pay the cost of having eastern & southern Oregon in their state. We hope to build a bipartisan coalition in the Oregon Legislature. We want western Oregonians to understand that their state budget would improve greatly without these counties, and that this would prevent gridlock in the legislature that has been caused by the denial of quorum.

How would this affect people?

We list the benefits of the proposal on the homepage of greateridaho.org.  We answer frequently-asked questions here. Our 38-page main document (our proposal) is here, although it’s not up to date.

History of the Greater Idaho movement

In 2019, supporters of joining Idaho who live in eastern Oregon interacted online with State of Jefferson proponents in southern Oregon.  An analysis showed that both Oregon and Idaho would benefit if rural Oregon counties switched states.  This is different from creating a new state because it would not affect the balance of power in the US Senate, so it would be more likely to be approved by the Oregon Legislature.

Move Oregon’s Border was officially founded by Mike McCarter, president, in January 2020.  Move Oregon’s Border sent emails to county commissioners asking them to put an advisory question on the ballot.  Various ballot initiatives were submitted to county clerks, and some began to be accepted in February 2020. Others rejected petition ideas until they accepted in June 2020. County clerks in Crook, Wheeler, and Gilliam counties never accepted an initiative, so we still don’t have permission to collect signatures there.

Mike McCarter filed lawsuits against 5 county clerks for rejecting his most-accepted petition idea. Three county clerks changed their mind, one judge sided with a county clerk (in Crook County), and one judge sided with McCarter (in Lake County).

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.

Move Oregon’s Border collected enough signatures in time for the November 2020 election in 3 counties (Jefferson, Union, and Wallowa), and came a few signatures short in Douglas County. Douglas County commissioners chose to refer an advisory question to the November 2020 ballot.

Move Oregon’s Border measures passed in Union County and Jefferson County, but only had 49.5% of the vote in Wallowa County and 43% of the Douglas County vote. Of the November 2020 elections, Mike McCarter said, “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.” 

Facebook permanently disabled Move Oregon’s Border’s page of 8000 followers and group with 12,500 members in January 2021. Facebook had used this tactic before to kill the 2015 version of the Greater Idaho movement, but Citizens for Greater Idaho has a new Facebook page and groups, as well as pages on various social media and an email list of 6800 addresses. 

Citizens for Greater Idaho was founded March 2021 by Mike McCarter, president, to serve the broader Greater Idaho movement, as Move Oregon’s Border is focused on Oregon and is registered as a PAC with the Oregon government.  

The public has always known the movement as “Greater Idaho.”  “Greater” refers to size, not quality. There is no intention to change Idaho’s name, but to change the extent of Idaho’s jurisdiction. Therefore, it’s preferable, when clear, to not capitalize “greater.” We prefer to be referenced as “the Greater Idaho movement” with a lower-case “m”.

On April 12, 2021, Citizens for Greater Idaho was invited to a meeting of the Idaho Legislature to consider the relocation of the Oregon/Idaho border. It was a joint meeting of the Idaho Senate Resources and Environment committee and the Idaho House Environment, Energy, and Technology committee. Approximately a third of the membership of the Idaho legislature are members of these two committees. Former Speaker of the Oregon House, Mark Simmons (R-Elgin) testified in favor of moving the border, describing how it would strengthen Idaho.

In May 2021, Move Oregon’s Border won in all 5 counties where it was on the ballot, averaging 62% in favor. It was on the ballot in Sherman, Lake, Grant, Baker, and Malheur counties and the texts of the initiatives are here.

In November 2021, Harney County voted 63% in favor of Greater Idaho. 

In May 2022, Klamath County became the 9th out of 15 eastern Oregon counties to vote in favor of a Greater Idaho ballot measure. But two counties of western Oregon voted against it, leading the movement to revise its proposed map to add only eastern Oregon to Idaho in phase 1 of the project. Also, the Baker County Board of Commissioners became the fourth county board to vote to send a letter to their state legislators, requesting the Oregon Legislature to take up the issue.

What about California and Washington?

Phase 1 of our proposal is to move the Oregon/Idaho border. This will create an Idaho/California border. Adding counties of northeastern California or southeastern Washington is Phase 2. Phase 2 is optional.

We know that the press coverage of the momentous achievement of moving the Oregon/Idaho border will be enough to attract the attention of the California and Washington legislatures. We hope that the campaign to convince Oregon state leadership to let go of “relatively low income, Trump-voting counties” for the benefit of Oregon will also convince the state leadership of California and Washington. These 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, although lower than their home state’s average income.   

In December 2020, we revised our proposal to not include Del Norte County, CA. We request that journalists update the maps in their folders with our new maps. Our proposal has always included Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties, and the northern neck of Plumas County.

We don’t believe that Idaho would want to annex eastern Washington as a whole because eastern Washington only gave 1.43 votes to conservatives per vote for leftists in an election while Idaho gave 2.46 (2016 presidential).  But the area of southeastern Washington that we propose to add to Idaho is shown on our map page.