Voters in two Oregon counties on Tuesday cast ballots in support of seceding from Oregon and joining Idaho.
The ballot measures, which require county commissioners to consider moving the border, passed in Union and Jefferson counties by 52% and 51%, respectively, exceeding a necessary majority vote.
Union County, of which La Grande is the county seat, is near the Oregon-Idaho border, northwest of Ontario. Jefferson County is in central Oregon, north of Bend.
Similar ballot measures failed in Wallowa and Douglas counties.
A group called Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho is spearheading the effort to secede Oregon’s rural counties from the rest of the state and join Idaho. The Gem State is more similar, culturally and politically, to rural Oregon, whose residents are often outvoted in state politics by the heavily populated, left-leaning Willamette Valley, home to Portland, the secessionists say.
“They don’t have a tendency to listen to people in rural Oregon and what our policies are,” Mike McCarter, president of Move Oregon’s Border, told the Idaho Press earlier this year. That’s why he hopes to “move the border this way and join you folks in Idaho.”
The last time a U.S. state was successfully partitioned was 1863 when what is now West Virginia seceded from Virginia.
Move Oregon’s Border is not done; signatures are being collected for ballot measures in 11 counties ahead of the May 2021 election. If counties choose to join Idaho, the moves would have to be approved by both Oregon and Idaho state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
“The idea of joining Idaho is new to Oregon voters and they need more time to learn that Idaho taxes are lower, even with all taxes considered, and that Idaho law respects traditional values in many ways that Oregon law does not,” McCarter said in a news release.