ENTERPRISE — The grassroots group known as Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho is making progress with petitions being circulated in 14 counties, said Mike McCarter, leader of the group.

He said Friday, June 26, that a map sent with a June 4 press release remains current except that an appeal in Crook County was rejected Wednesday, June 24, by the circuit court there since the judge determined the petition needed to be submitted by a voter registered in Crook County. It was submitted by McCarter, who lives in La Pine, in Deschutes County. McCarter said that petition will be resubmitted to the county clerk there, rather than undertaking the expensive and time-consuming process of taking it to an appellate court.

At present, McCarter said Wallowa County unpaid petition circulators have gathered about 45% of the 242 signatures needed by the Aug. 5 deadline. Many are being collected alongside a “Recall Kate Brown” petition also being circulated.

Those collecting signatures in Wallowa County include the Wallowa County Republican Party, Norton’s Welding in Lostine, Enterprise Auto Parts in Enterprise, Goebel’s Gas Station in Wallowa, Back-Achers Industrial Park in Wallowa and Grant Darrow, an Elgin-based chimney sweep who travels all over Wallowa County.

McCarter said Douglas County, in southwestern Oregon, leads the pack in signatures with about 2,000 of the 2,955 needed. He said many counties are nearing their goals, but signature gathering has been hampered by restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said signature gatherers generally aim for 10% more than the number required for their counties. That way, they have some leeway for any signatures rejected by county clerks because of a signature error or the signer not being a registered voter.

Rather than circulating statewide, petitions are asking the commissioners of each county targeted for inclusion in a “Greater Idaho” to meet regularly to consider the interests of having their county moved into the more conservative state.

“Idaho enforces the rule of law, defends its people and doesn’t foster a culture of criminality, joblessness and homelessness,” McCarter said in the June 4 release. “The government of Oregon has lost the confidence of the people of rural Oregonian counties. Replacing the governor wouldn’t be enough to fix the problem because we don’t trust northwestern Oregon’s voters. Our counties don’t want to be held captive by a state government that ignores our security, our local economy, our churches’ right to assemble and even our voter registration.”

If the movement is successful, eastern and southern rural Oregon counties stretching from the Idaho border to the Pacific Coast could become part of a “Greater Idaho.” It’s not like creating a new state out of existing ones. Rather, it’s more of a negotiation between existing states to change the border and then ask Congress to make it official.

McCarter said in the press release that politicians who have welcomed the idea of moving the Oregon/Idaho border include Oregon State Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger, former Speaker of the Oregon House Mark Simmons, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Idaho Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, Idaho Senate State Affairs Chair Patti Ann Lodge and Idaho House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, among others.

State legislators of both states have agreed to participate in a forum of Oregon and Idaho lawmakers to discuss the idea of moving the state line.

However, McCarter said Friday, no county clerks and few local politicians have stated a position on the concept of moving into Idaho.

“They don’t want to put their necks on the line. They want to see what people think first,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people standing on sidelines to see if any traction on the movement. … There are always movements that come along and people or politicians are not going to come out in favor of them until they see people in support.”

McCarter said he’s determined to see this movement through. Even if COVID-19 restrictions hamper signature gathering and they don’t make the Aug. 5 deadline, there’s always the next election.

“It’s not a one-and-done thing,” he said.

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