BAKER CITY – A group of Idaho and Oregon legislators and a county commissioner from Malheur County met last month to discuss the grassroots effort to move parts of Oregon into Idaho but no major decisions emerged from the session.
The Oct. 19 meeting was an informational gathering that included Malheur County Commissioner Ron Jacobs, state Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, and Idaho legislators Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.
The idea to move the border was introduced in 2020 and includes transferring 14 eastern Oregon counties into Idaho.
Voters in 12 counties in Oregon – including Malheur – approved ballot measures to compel county commissioners to hold meetings three times a year to discuss the idea. The measures did not take a position on an actual move.
The group behind the effort, Citizens for Greater Idaho, represents a merger between Citizens of Greater Idaho and Move Oregon’s Border, which initially pushed for the succession movement.
Jacobs said last week he chose to go to the meeting “because I wanted to see what they are discussing.”
“I wanted to make sure they are addressing all of the issues it would take to do something like move the border,” he said.
A plan to move a state border – a task not done since the Civil War – requires the approval of the Oregon and Idaho legislatures. Then the issue would need to be approved by the Congress.
Jacobs said he felt the meeting “was beneficial.”
Proponents of the border move want to induce state legislators to discuss the idea which, in turn, could spark the creation of a bill to push to Congress. A disconnect of political views and culture between eastern and western Oregon underpin the border movement for its proponents.
Eastern Oregon values, economy and political beliefs are more in line with Idaho then western Oregon, they assert.
“I guess our biggest issue is we want to be heard from the west side,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs said one result of the effort to move eastern Oregon into Idaho could be expanding the region’s profile in Salem.
“Part of the problem is we are way outnumbered by west side representation. This could make sure other legislators are giving our representatives sufficient consideration,” said Jacobs.
Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said while the court is mandated to meet three times a year to discuss the issue, he isn’t sure the sessions are fruitful.
“We just repeat ourselves and repeat ourselves. Where it is going to go? Well you’d have to talk to legislators about that,” he said.
Joyce said it is common knowledge the political and cultural gulf exists between eastern and western Oregon.
“Maybe, though, the emphasis should be to get people (elected) that are like-minded for rural Oregon and Malheur County,” he said.
Mike McCarter, the president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, said one “secondary benefit” to the movement would be to raise awareness about the lack of representation “that our politicians are getting.”
“A majority of legislators are in the northwest part of Oregon. They are trying to solve the problems of their constituents but in a lot of cases that flies in the face of the way we live in our part of the state,” he said.
McCarter, a La Pine resident, said the basic elements to the Citizens of Greater Idaho are straightforward.
“If Oregon’s legislature is not going to try to deal with our issues, and/or the measures they are passing are against the way we are then let us go,” said McCarter.
McCarter said many eastern Oregon votes feel powerless.
“We fight a wave of apathy, of why vote because all it takes is a portion of Multnomah County to cancel out what we vote. The other thing we is, well, this will never happen,” he said.
McCarter said he isn’t sure if the border move concept is “perfect answer but it is the only answer right now.”
“Nobody else is doing anything about it,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.