February 19, 2020

Mini Secession? Oregon Counties Want to Join Idaho

  • Flyover Country

By: Nate James

In Brief:

Some conservative Oregon residents want their counties to become a part of Idaho and have started a petition to secede.

The Background:

“Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho” writes on its Facebook page:

An audacious petition that would ask voters if they want their county to become a county of Idaho passed a procedural constitutional review by the County Clerk of Josephine County, Oregon on January 29, and was awarded a ballot title by the District Attorney of Josephine County January 31. It is expected to be cleared for gathering signatures in late February. The accuracy of the ballot title was challenged by the authors of the petition in a filing with Josephine County Circuit Court February 11. Separately, another prospective petition regarding making Douglas County a county of Idaho was accepted by the Douglas County Clerk on February 11.

State borders are typically relocated by an interstate compact between two state legislatures, when approved by Congress. The last time this process was followed was August 25, 1961, when the state border between Minnesota and North Dakota was relocated.

However, the county ballot initiative in Josephine County simply makes it county policy to cooperate with any state effort to move the Oregon/Idaho border, if any such effort develops. The Douglas County ballot initiative amends a 1997 ordinance to add Idaho officials to the list of officials who may be lobbied by Douglas County commissioners. The suggested ballot question is "Shall the County Board be authorized to advocate for Idaho legislation, such as making this county a county of Idaho?"

One of the chief petitioners, Mike McCarter, said “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values. We tried voting those legislators out but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort.” Mike McCarter, of La Pine, Oregon, and Valerie Gottschalk of Selma, Oregon are the chief petitioners and leaders of a movement called Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho.

Gottschalk said “I expect this movement to grow rapidly, having seen the response to the 'Recall Kate' petition circulated last year. People here would prefer Idaho's conservative governance to the progressive/liberal current Oregon governance. Every time I look at the Facebook group Greater Idaho, the group has gotten bigger. And our Facebook poll got 84% in favor out of 1300 polled.”

Maps on the group’s website, GreaterIdaho.org, show the Idaho border relocated so that Oregon only has a 14 counties remaining, mostly in the Willamette Valley. Idaho would gain coastline in Douglas County, Coos County, Curry County, and even Del Norte County, California. The group says that adding rural California counties to Idaho is phase 2 of their plan.

In order to appear on the Nov 3, 2020 ballot in Josephine County, the group must gather 2429 valid signatures from Josephine County voters by August 5. Douglas County requires 2955 valid signatures.

Mike McCarter said that the group plans to file petitions in 17 other counties, and that he has met multiple times with county commissioners who are considering referring an advisory question to the ballot in their county that would ask the voter: “Should the County Commissioners advocate for the Idaho border to be relocated to make this county a county of Idaho?”

McCarter said that “we are starting with county ballot initiatives first because we want to prove that, after the campaign this summer, ordinary voters in rural Oregon will show that they don’t want to be ruled from Salem anymore. Convincing the state to let these counties go is the second step. And we believe that together, we can convince the state. Willamette Valley legislators would welcome the improvement in the state budget if we leave because our counties pay much less income taxes than their counties do, per person. And 2 out of 3 of our voters vote against their party. Our economies are rural, like Idaho’s economy, because we have fewer white-collar workers than the Willamette Valley does. We really don’t fit with Portland. Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho is just starting and we need more volunteers to contact their county commissioners and gather signatures.”

Mike McCarter is a veteran and a former president of the Oregon Agribusiness Council and Oregon Association of Nurserymen. He is a Life Member of the NRA, currently the Committee Co-Chairman of Friends of NRA – La Pine, and a concealed-carry / firearm instructor.

In Mike McCarter’s filing February 11, he appealed to the Josephine County Circuit Court to revise the ballot title assigned by the District Attorney. He quoted Curry County Legal Counsel as saying that the petition “only applies to county personnel who would be responding to such requests.”

His filing suggests this alternate ballot title:

Subject: County Shall Facilitate Making Josephine County a County of Idaho
Question: Shall it be County policy to facilitate moving the Idaho border to make Josephine County a county of Idaho?

Explanatory Statement: This measure states “Whereas it is the sense of Josephine County that Oregon should begin negotiations with Idaho to relocate the Oregon/Idaho border to make this county a county of Idaho, therefore, it shall be the policy of the government of this county to facilitate efforts by the state of Oregon to negotiate a relocation of the Oregon/Idaho border to a location somewhat north of this county.”
Section 3 of the measure states that “Josephine County Government shall not delay the fulfillment of lawful requests for information from the governments of the state of Oregon or Idaho that are designated by that state to be requests in support of negotiations to relocate the Oregon/Idaho border to a location somewhat north of this county. When the meaning of the term “delay” is disputed, it shall be the duty of the County Clerk to determine what actions or period of time shall be considered a delay as the term is used in this ordinance.” This measure specifies financial penalties for violations of section 3.                                                            

Why It Matters:

Liberal policies are dividing our country, literally.

Notable Quotes:

“Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values. We tried voting those legislators out but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort.”

  • Mike McCarter, chief petitioner of the movement

Nate James writes from Texas.

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