The Idaho House passed a resolution on Wednesday to begin talks with the Oregon Legislature about potentially expanding the Idaho border into eastern Oregon.
Such a resolution has its roots in the Greater Idaho movement, which seeks to absorb 11 Oregon counties, or 63 percent of the state’s landmass, into Idaho. The rationale for such a move is that the leftist residents of northwest Oregon — Portland, Salem, Eugene — control the politics of the state, and therefore rural, conservative residents in eastern and southern Oregon are effectively silenced on matters of state governance.
“The aspirations of Portland-area and northwestern Oregon voters force the state government toward a direction that happens to be incompatible with the values and livelihoods of my town and many in eastern and southern Oregon,” Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho wrote in an op-ed for Oregon Live.
Rural, conservative Oregonians would feel well-represented in the Idaho legislature, which is overwhelmingly Republican. Idaho politics bleed red; the state has not backed a Democrat for President since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Idaho Rep. Judy Boyle supports the expansion because she wants to crack down on drugs pouring into her state. Boyle represents a border district, and because Oregon has moved to decriminalize most drugs, there’s been an influx of drugs into the region. She told the Idaho Press she voted to extend her state’s border to “get those drugs away from us.”
Rep. Barbara Ehardt believes Idaho has a lot to gain from absorbing eastern and southern Oregon’s natural resources and land mass. If the Oregon legislature is worried about losing so much state land, however, proponents argue that the majority of land in the expansion is federally or privately owned. The state government would not be losing much.
But not all Idaho lawmakers are in favor of the expansion.
“We should not be self-segregating by ideology like this,” House Minority Leader, Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel told a local news channel. “I think we’re on a path to civil war if we keep going down this path. We have got to learn to get along better and work together better. The answer cannot be to carve up the country and redraw lines that have been in place for a century or more, just so we can only be surrounded by people that perfectly agree with us.”
The measure will now go to the Idaho Senate for approval, but it must also be approved by the Oregon legislature, as well as Congress. Already, 11 rural Oregon counties have already signed onto the petition for expansion. If enacted, Oregon would lose one congressional seat and one electoral vote due to the population shift.