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After Election Day defeats, ‘Greater Idaho’ backers done trying to reach Oregon coast

A reconsidered proposal to move Oregon’s boundary with Idaho wouldn’t result in the Gem State reaching the Pacific Ocean, but Klamath Lake could become part of Idaho if Congress and both state Legislatures approved. (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/Wikimedia Commons)

State borders wouldn’t change unless approved by Idaho, Oregon legislatures and an act of Congress

After voters in Douglas and Josephine counties rejected the idea of joining Idaho last week, a group trying to change Oregon’s eastern boundary is giving up on extending the Gem State to the Pacific Ocean.

Votes for the “Greater Idaho” movement in nine counties, including Klamath County last week, can’t actually change Oregon’s borders. That would take the Oregon and Idaho legislatures and an act of Congress. But supporters of creating a sprawling, conservative and mostly rural Idaho and a compact, more urban, liberal Oregon say each vote sends a message to legislators to act.

A new proposal from Citizens for Greater Idaho in response to last week’s election results would leave the Cascade Mountains and all the land to the west with Oregon. Bend and Sisters would also remain with Oregon despite being on the east side of the mountains, and Jefferson and Wasco counties would be divided. In all, about 386,000 of Oregon’s 4.1 million people and 63% of the state’s land would become part of Idaho.

Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, said he’s looking for Oregon legislators to sponsor a resolution next spring to begin talks with Idaho about moving the border. State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, last year told constituents he would introduce such a resolution if county commissioners asked, though he doesn’t personally support the idea of moving the state’s borders.

McCarter said southern Oregon was welcome to join if voters change their minds, but he wants to focus on the eastern Oregon counties that have already indicated interest.

“Eastern Oregon has consistently voted in favor and so we want eastern Oregon’s request to join Idaho to be heard,” he said. “There’s only a few counties left in eastern Oregon that haven’t gotten a chance to vote on Greater Idaho yet.”

So far, voters in Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Sherman and Union counties have voted to require county commissioners to regularly discuss changing state borders.

Douglas County voters last week voted against a measure that would have authorized the county to spend money lobbying the state and federal governments to change the boundaries. Josephine County residents voted “no” to a question poised by county commissioners, who asked whether Josephine County and other rural counties should separate from Oregon.

McCarter plans to submit signatures this week to put the question on Morrow County’s ballot. He’s close to having enough signatures to ask Wallowa voters, who rejected the idea once, to reconsider.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle, like the Idaho Capital Sun, is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.