Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt
Senate Joint Memorial 2 —more popularly dubbed the “Greater Idaho” bill— was introduced to the Oregon legislature by Republican Sen. Dennis Linthicum on Jan. 10.
If passed, the bill will seek out discussions regarding readjustments and relocations of Oregon and Idaho state lines. The bill will not set the secession into motion.
Fifteen eastern counties have been proposed to move to the state of Idaho — together, they take up approximately 65% of Oregon’s land mass and roughly 9% of the population. As of Jan. 11, 2023, 11 of the 15 Eastern Oregon counties have already voted in favor of joining Idaho, including Klamath, Lake, Union, Grant, Sherman, Morrow, Wheeler, Baker, Malheur, Jefferson and Harney. Wallowa County is next in line to vote on the prospect of joining Idaho in their upcoming May election.
The idea behind the “Greater Idaho” bill initially began with the “Greater Idaho” movement — or “Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho” — in early 2020, led by Mike McCarter from La Pine, Oregon. The movement’s aim was to convince Oregon legislatures to readjust the Oregon/Idaho border to move conservative Eastern Oregon counties into the state of Idaho — a largely Republican state — in an effort to realign cultural differences.
“Eastern Oregon is culturally, politically, (and) economically much more similar to Idaho than it is to western Oregon,” said Matt McCaw, a spokesperson for the “Greater Idaho” movement. “Our movement is about self-determination and matching people to (the) government that they want and that matches their values.”
Oregon has a long-standing history, with its border set almost 200 years ago. However, McCaw argues that the border was enacted at a time with no cultural and political divisions.
“The policy and the government that works for western Oregon, that western Oregonians want, does not work in eastern Oregon and it’s not what eastern Oregonians want,” said McCaw.
As the “Greater Idaho” movement gains momentum across much of the Eastern Oregon counties, many Oregon residents are left questioning whether such redistricting is likely.
McCaw is confident, stating, “We absolutely believe this is possible … If that does not happen this session then we will keep trying in the next session.”
This is not the first time discussions have occurred regarding changes in state boundaries.
In 1958, the Oregon boundary between the state of Washington was slightly amended, known as the Senate Joint Resolution 10. The measure authorized the modification of Washington state boundaries along the Columbia River.
According to “Greater Idaho” official website, there are two phases to the movement, the second which includes the eventual merging of Northern California into Idaho’s state line. Northern California counties included in the proposal include all or parts of Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Del Norte, Modoc and Lassen. Such planning, however, would be part of a future phase.
For more information about the “Greater Idaho” movement, visit their official website at www.greateridaho.org, or read the Senate Joint Memorial 2 bill at https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov.
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