ENTERPRISE — A new federal lawsuit to bypass state-required regulations on collecting signatures for a ballot measure was filed Wednesday, July 22, by Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho after an earlier suit was denied by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane ruled Monday, July 20, that MOB had not demonstrated “reasonable diligence” in attempting to collect signatures amid the limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Oregonian.
MOB leader Mike McCarter said Thursday, July 23, he refiled the suit with more substantial evidence documenting the group’s efforts. He said he submitted the numbers of signatures gathered in all 17 counties listed in the earlier suit, as well as the numerous signature-collection stations throughout those counties.
The counties are those in Eastern and Southern Oregon where many voters feel ignored by the urban-dominated northwest section of the state and the government in Salem, McCarter said. He and his supporters see Idaho as a more favorable climate for politics, a conservative way of thinking, taxes and the cost of living.
He said that in Wallowa County, where only 242 signatures are needed, about 138% have been collected. He plans to submit them to county Clerk Sandy Lathrop sometime this week. He said his group will continue to collect signatures right up to the Aug. 5 deadline for inclusion on the November ballot.
The individual county ballot measures — if approved — would require each county’s commissioners to meet quarterly and consider their county’s interests in becoming a part of Idaho. Moving the border would require approval of both state legislatures, as well as by Congress.
But, McCarter still maintains, the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic hinder efforts to collect signatures.
“It’s just tough to get people,” he said. “You can’t stand in front of a store because if you attract too much attention you get asked to leave.”
McCarter said he didn’t total all the signatures since the effort is done on a county-by-county basis.
“We may have 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 signatures in but that doesn’t matter because we’re doing it county by county,” he said.
He said Wallowa County has the highest percentage of signatures gathered. Jefferson County is next with about 98%. Several are in the 50% range, he said.
McCarter said that while he won’t give up if the measures don’t make it onto the November ballot, he considers getting it on this year’s ballot urgent because it’s a presidential election year where turnout is always much higher than in off-year elections.
“We’re going to keep on digging no matter what,” he said.