On Tuesday, voters in Oregon slowed the momentum of the Greater Idaho movement.
Preliminary results show that Douglas and Josephine counties have rejected moves to study the relocation of these jurisdictions to Idaho. Voters in Klamath County, however, backed the idea, meaning nine of Oregon’s 36 counties have so far voted to consider adjusting the border.
Over the past two years, the Greater Idaho effort has mostly won successful token votes for its plan to move the vast, sparsely populated rural areas of southern and eastern Oregon into Gem State. Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Lake, Malheur, Sherman and Union counties have approved steps to review the boundary change.
Morrow and Umatilla counties will vote on the Greater Idaho measures in November.
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Greater Idaho supporters believe Oregon’s “rural/urban divide” has become unbridgeable, with an increasingly liberal, Democratic-led state legislature ignoring the concerns and values of conservative Oregonians and rural.
Mike McCarter, the La Pine resident who heads the local political organization Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, calls the proposed border change a “peaceful revolution” that would make both urban progressives and rural conservatives happier.
The idea has gained traction among many rural Oregonians and even some political leaders.
“When I was in the Legislature, I was always jumping on the urban/rural divide,” Josephine County Commissioner and former Oregon Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. told The Oregonian/OregonLive last year. “It’s two very different ways of life, two different ways of life.”
He added: “People in these rural areas have had it. They want to leave.
Ballot initiatives are not binding. McCarter, a retired agricultural nurseryman, and his fellow volunteers pursue them as a means of highlighting rural discontent. They hope to force the Salem and Boise state legislatures to begin negotiating a new border — a highly unlikely scenario.
Even if Idaho and Oregon agreed to a border adjustment, the US Congress would have to approve it.
In Tuesday’s unofficial results, 8,688 Douglas County voters, or 57.16 percent, said no to the “Expand Idaho Border” measure. The measure received 6,512 votes in favor, or 42.84%.
Unofficial results in Josephine County for the “advisory question about being part of Idaho” show 10,319 (54.56%) no votes and 8,593 (45.44%) yes.
That’s four Oregon counties in total since the effort began that have voted against the study of moving the border.
The positive news for the Greater Idaho movement this week came in Klamath County, where unofficial results have 8,260 votes (56.11%) in favor of the boundary shift study and 6,460 (43 .89%) against.