The Greater Idaho movement announced Monday that it has scaled back its plan for a mass Oregon exodus to Idaho, opting to concentrate for now on the eastern counties after a pair of electoral defeats last week in the southwest.
Two southwestern Oregon counties, Douglas and Josephine, narrowly defeated May 17 ballot measures in favor of leaving Oregon and joining Idaho. Klamath County in eastern Oregon approved the proposal with 57% of the vote.
Citizens for Greater Idaho president Mike McCarter said that movement had decided to limit phase 1 of its annexation plan to eastern Oregon, where support has been strongest.
“If southern Oregon changes its mind, it’s welcome to join phase 1 or phase 2 of our proposal, but we want to make progress now in state legislatures with eastern Oregon,” Mr. McCarter said in a statement. “Eastern Oregon has consistently voted in favor and so we want eastern Oregon’s request to join Idaho to be heard. There’s only a few counties left in eastern Oregon that haven’t gotten a chance to vote on Greater Idaho yet.”
Preliminary election totals showed the vote was close, even where the issue lost. Douglas County voted 47% in favor of the proposal and Josephine County saw 49% support, according to Greater Idaho.
Nine eastern Oregon counties have voted in favor of joining Idaho, including two of the three border counties: Malheur and Baker.
Greater Idaho is gathering signatures to place the question on the ballot next year in Wallowa County, the third border county.
The campaign also plans to submit signatures next week to qualify for the November ballot in Morrow County, also located in eastern Oregon.
Even in its less ambitious form, Greater Idaho’s proposed annexation effort would bring most of Oregon’s land mass under the jurisdiction of its red-state neighbor. The revamped map would also mean that Oregon would keep all of its coastline.
“The proposal would put fourteen eastern Oregon counties and three partial eastern Oregon counties under the governance of Idaho,” said the campaign statement. “The area has a population of 386,000. This is 9% of the population of Oregon and 63% of the land area of Oregon. Under phase 1, Idaho would almost tie Montana in land area but have twice the population of Montana.”
The longshot effort was spurred by frustration in conservative, rural eastern Oregon with the deep-blue Democratic legislature, which is dominated by left-wing legislators from urban Portland.
Both state legislatures would need to sign off on the redrawn border, as would the U.S. Congress.
So far Salem lawmakers have shown little interest in the proposal.
That not the case in in Boise, where Republican Gov. Brad Little has said he would welcome the would-be expatriates and the state legislature held a joint hearing last year on the idea.
While Oregon would lose most of its territory under the plan, Mr. McCarter said the blue-state legislature would also be rid of nearly 25% of its Republicans.