Lawmakers back membership efforts for rural Oregon counties

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The Greater Idaho Movement seeks to redraw state borders so that rural Oregon can join Idaho. The Idaho House voted to explore the move after 11 Oregon counties did the same. Moving the state border would require approval from Oregon, Idaho and the US Congress. Something is loading.

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The Greater Idaho movement — a conservative effort to have eastern Oregon secede from the blue state and join Idaho — received major support last week from lawmakers in the red state.

Members of the Idaho House of Representatives have voted in favor of a bill that would open talks between Idaho and Oregon on moving the boundary line that separates the two western states . The development marks a step forward for the Greater Idaho movement, which asserts that rural Oregon is more similar to Idaho politically, economically and culturally than to their state’s urban areas.

The bill, which was passed on February 15, states that “the Idaho Legislature is prepared to enter into discussions with the Oregon Legislature regarding the possibility of moving the boundary between the State of Oregon and Idaho, in accordance with the wishes of the citizens of eastern Oregon, and we invite the Oregon Legislature to enter into discussions on this subject with the Idaho Legislature.”

It’s unclear whether the bill will pass the Idaho Senate, but the chamber has a similar political makeup to the state House, with Republicans making up the vast majority of members at about 80 percent. Matt McCaw, a spokesperson for the group behind the Greater Idaho movement, told Insider they’re confident the bill will also pass the Idaho Senate in the coming weeks.

The group noted that Idaho lawmakers cited several reasons for supporting the bill, including a recent analysis that found the state line change could benefit Idaho economically. The analysis was conducted by the Claremont Institute, a California-based right-wing think tank that was an early advocate for Donald Trump. John Eastman, a lawyer and prominent figure in the organization, advised Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election results.

Lawmakers also noted a desire to keep Oregon’s more liberal drug laws further removed from Idaho’s current population.

Moving the state border would require approval from the Oregon and Idaho legislatures as well as the US Congress. Despite support from lawmakers in Idaho, the idea could face greater hurdles in the Oregon legislature, where both houses have strong Democratic majorities. Oregon State Senator Dennis Linthicum, a Republican, has tabled a similar legislative proposal to begin talks with Idaho, but it is unlikely to make it out of the rules committee.

The Greater Idaho group, which argues changing state borders would benefit both states, hopes to persuade Democratic lawmakers to consider it by focusing on the 11 rural Oregon counties that have already voted in favor of exploration of the move, as well as polls that suggest some support. in Idaho and northwestern Oregon as well.

McCaw also pointed out that the bills are not intended to move the state line tomorrow, but rather to open up the conversation.

“What they’re saying is, ‘We hear people from eastern Oregon. We see how this benefits both states. We invite each state to start discussions about where it makes sense to place that boundary,’” he told Insider.

This September 7, 2020 file photo shows the ‘Oregon for Trump 2020 Labor Day Cruise Rally’ at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon. Michael Arellano/Associated Press

Oregon voted decisively for President Joe Biden in 2020, pushed in large part by heavily populated counties near Portland, Eugene and Bend. But areas of eastern Oregon that were nominated to join Idaho voted for Donald Trump, with the former president winning nearly 80% of the vote in some counties. Meanwhile, Trump also overwhelmingly won Idaho with nearly 64% of the vote.

Secession movement experts have previously told Insider that the Greater Idaho movement is unlikely to succeed, but far from impossible, and that there are historical precedents for moving state lines.

“I don’t think the map of the United States will be the same in 2050,” said Richard Kreitner, author of the book “Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.” adding that “most status lines are quite arbitrary”.

McCaw said the Greater Idaho proposal would be a solution to the “long-standing problem” of the urban-rural divide.

“We have extreme partisanship. We have all these things that people in the United States know are a problem, and people are looking for solutions,” he said. “We can make people fit into a government they want that fits their values, and we can reduce political tensions and make it a win-win for everyone involved.”

This partisanship and political tension has often led to speculation about the possibility of conflict, and experts have previously told Insider that if a civil war were to break out in the United States, eastern Oregon would be the one of the most likely places, citing the organized secessionist movement and anti-government sentiment.

Greater Idaho supporters have said their plan is a way to avoid conflict, but the actual impact of moving the border is unclear. And while a civil war may seem unlikely, Barbara F. Walter, a leading expert on civil wars and author of “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,” said the United States is ” closer to civil war than any of us”. would like to believe.”

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