After months of watching the word “Oregon” become synonymous with “anarchy” and “violence” thanks to left-wing rioting in Portland, voters in two of the state’s counties did something about it.
“It’s a conservative-values situation,” Mike McCarter, a leader of the group Move Oregon’s Borders, told The Bend Bulletin in March.
“It’s not necessarily politics,” he said. “It’s urban vs. rural. I think the bigger problem people have is the state Legislature doesn’t listen to rural Oregon. Their policies and decisions are based off the urban people in the Willamette Valley.”
McCarter, a retired plant nursery worker and firearms instructor, said he does not expect instant secession.
“I’m not really sure what the chances are, if you’re going to put into odds or bet on it,” he told OPB this month. “But if we don’t attempt to do something like that we continue to go down a road of frustration about the state Legislature not paying attention to rural Oregon.”
“Rural Oregon is really very similar to Idaho counties,” McCarter said.
“Over the years, they’ve thought of them as their brother,” he said, according to the outlet. “There’s similar agriculture products, similar timber industries, similar conservative values. Don’t create a new state, but adjust the border so Idaho is a little bigger and Oregon is a little smaller.”
The measure received the support of 51.0 percent of voters in Jefferson County and 52.42 in Union.
Similar efforts fell short in two other counties: Wallowa (50.5 percent against to 49.5 in favor) and Douglas (56.7 to 43.3).
In the two where it succeeded, local lawmakers are now required to begin talks with Idaho officials.
“I don’t know truly whether my constituents know what they voted on,” said Kelly Simmelink, who chairs the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. “The way it is written, what concerns me, is I’m required to have two meetings a year in perpetuity. There’s no sunset on this deal, and we’ve really been given no guidance about what the meetings are, how they’re held, who’s running the agenda.”
McCarter said confusion is to be expected at this stage.
“The commissioners really don’t have anything they can discuss or talk about until the Oregon Legislature starts negotiations with Idaho,” he said. “Counties cannot legally secede from Oregon without the Legislature’s approval.”
People in two counties in rural Oregon voted to push their lawmakers to consider moving their communities into Idaho, which they say is more representative of their political views. https://t.co/WBCOdZejZw
— Idaho News 6 (@IdahoNews6) November 17, 2020
But this year was a beginning. Next year, McCarter wants to have 11 counties vote on the plan, in hopes of moving 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties into something McCarter and his group call “Greater Idaho,” which includes some pieces of Northern California.
For the idea to become reality, the state legislatures of Oregon and Idaho would need to adopt the plan, as would Congress.
“Our goal is not to change anything,” McCarter said. “We are just adding a whole big chunk of conservative people to Idaho.”
McCarter said that successful or not, the effort has added meaning to his retirement.
“Whatever time the Lord gives me, I want to make it count,” he said. “Instead of doing crossword puzzles, I can do this.”
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