Wallowa County — Idaho?
Give the Gem State a seacoast and a border with California?
That could be the outcome if efforts succeed by a group called Move Oregon’s Border in some of the 20 counties where the group has filed requests to collect signatures on petitions.
The deadline to gather signatures in the targeted Oregon counties is early August for them to go before voters in November. Wallowa County Clerk Sandy Lathrop received the petition in April and, after conferring with the county’s legal counsel Lathrop notified MOB President Mike McCarter on Tuesday, May 5, that the group may begin collecting signatures in the county.
Only 242 signatures are needed to get it on the November ballot.
“We’ve done it county by county because we’re asking for advisory votes from each county’s commissioners,” said McCarter, who lives in La Pine. He said the real reason behind the movement is because many people in Oregon’s rural counties feel overlooked by the urban-dominated state government.
“If you love your county but you are sick of your state government, then help us move the state border,” he said. “Idaho’s governance fits our needs and our values better.”
So far, McCarter said, county clerks in eight of the 20 counties have approved requests to circulate petitions, including Baker, Curry, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Josephine and Umatilla counties, along with Wallowa County.
Another 11 county clerks have rejected the requests and the status of Jackson County is pending. Many of the rejections, McCarter said, were because of procedural problems such as in Jackson County. Several counties in northeastern California also are included in the effort.
Does McCarter think the effort will be successful?
“I’m not sure. I believe it can happen, but until we start going down that road ... we won’t know,” he said.
But, he noted, it has been done in the past. Both the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions include provisions both for creating new states and moving state borders.
The most dramatic case was during the Civil War, when West Virginia — which had refused to join Virginia in seceding from the Union — seceded from Confederate Virginia and formed a new state in 1863.
Later that year, the new state acquired a couple more Virginia counties.
More recently, in 1961, Minnesota and North Dakota agreed that a few Minnesota counties could join North Dakota.
McCarter said a recent resolution passed in West Virginia welcomes Virginia counties to join the state over opposition to the Virginia governor’s strict gun control policies.
He said a case more similar to Oregon’s is ongoing in rural Illinois where people are frustrated with being dominated by urban Chicago’s control of the state.
They are considering joining more rural Indiana, he said.
But the effort isn’t just to get Salem — and the urban west side — to sit up and take notice of rural Oregonians.
“We’re not doing it just to make a statement. We are doing it to actually move Oregon’s border,” McCarter said.