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 and southern Oregon have normal American cultures and values.  This area votes exactly like Idaho in national elections. 

Our proposal would put 18 south and east Oregon counties and three partial Oregon counties under the governance of Idaho instead of Oregon. This is 76% of the land area of Oregon and 21% of the population of Oregon. As this area had a 2019 population of 873,000, and Idaho had a population of 1.8 M, it would increase the population of Idaho by 49% in phase 1.

Phase 2 is optional. It would add to Idaho five counties of northeastern California, with a population less than 348,000 and/or 3 small counties (plus two small towns) of southeastern Washington with a total population less than 31,000. 

Idaho would become the third largest state in the Union. It would be slightly larger than Montana (after phase 1 or 2) but three times the population of Montana (after phase 2).  Maps are available here.

The Chances of Greater Idaho happening

Moving the border is a win-win for each of the three major decision makers: the Oregon Legislature, the Idaho Legislature, and rural Oregonians.  We list the benefits of the proposal to each stakeholder on the homepage of greateridaho.org.  Congress has approved dozens of border relocations over the last 200 years. No matter which party is in control of Congress at the time, Congress is likely to approve a compact that is popular in both a blue state as well as a red state. It approves several interstate compacts per year.

We are confident that we will convince Idaho to accept our counties. 

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 50/50 at this moment in history, but we know that the political environment can change.  Polling shows that there is a chance of civil strife in Oregon. We are encouraged by a June 2021 poll showing that northwestern Oregonians haven’t made up their minds yet on the issue of moving the border. There is no majority opposed to it (or in favor of it), because some haven’t considered the issue yet. The poll is described here: https://www.greateridaho.org/poll-of-oregonians-regarding-greater-idaho

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 regarding Greater Idaho in January 2022. In 2020, Rep. Ehardt, an athlete and coach, pioneered a nationwide trend when she introduced legislation to keep biological males out of girls’ sports competitions.  The Idaho public is cautious, as they are concerned about adding liberals or poor counties to the state. Fortunately, our tabulations show that the counties we chose are as conservative and as prosperous as Idaho is.

Most Oregon legislators have been waiting for a better election result before coming out in favor of the proposal, but some have already publicly supported it: Sen. Dennis Linthicum, Rep. Werner Reschke, Rep. Greg Smith, and Rep. Gary Leif. Former Senate Maj. Leader Herman Baertschiger is currently Vice Chair of the Oregon Republican Party and was quoted in the press in support in 2020.  After our success in the May 2021 elections, we hope to build a coalition in the Oregon Legislature between east and south Oregon Republicans and northwestern Oregon Democrats. We want northwestern 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

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.  The state allows 24 months to collect signatures, but the limit is 12 months in Jackson County. 

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 ballot. Now Move Oregon’s Border has enough signatures to place its initiative on the Douglas County 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. Citizens for Greater Idaho has a new Facebook page and groups, as well as pages on various social media and an email list of 6000 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, only its extent, so it’s preferable, when clear, to not capitalize “greater.”  

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.

Of the May 2021 election, McCarter said, “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, Klamath, and probably several other counties where citizens are still collecting signatures or asking county commissioners to put it on the ballot.”

The election on Greater Idaho in Harney County is scheduled for November 2021.

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 their maps with our new ones. Our proposal has always included Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties, and the northern neck of Plumas County. We are also considering adding the rest of Plumas County and northwestern Sierra County, pending an economic analysis of the entire Greater Idaho proposal.

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 where Idaho gave 2.46 (2016 presidential).