Numerous states in America feature an internal political divide in which the typically rural and predominately conservative “red” counties are outvoted and overruled by the generally smaller but much more densely populated liberal “blue” urban centers, and Oregon is a prime example of just such a state.
That could potentially change in the future, though, as a secession movement known as “Greater Idaho” has gained momentum and popularity in the eastern half of Oregon, and at least two of the state’s counties will vote on the idea in November, Fox News reported.
The movement is centered on the idea that the strongly conservative but lightly populated rural counties in eastern Oregon will secede from the increasingly far-left and heavily populated western Oregon counties and urban centers to instead join with and be annexed by the largely conservative state of Idaho.
How to split a politically divided state
Matt McCaw, a spokesman for the Greater Idaho movement, told Fox News, “It makes more sense for Eastern Oregonians to get state-level governance coming from Idaho, where they share their values, share their culture, share their politics, than it does to be governed by Western Oregon.”
He noted that because of the substantially greater numbers of voters in Western Oregon as compared to the eastern half of the state, “They have the numbers to dictate what happens statewide.”
Ultimately, the movement hopes to see at least 15 whole counties and portions of two other counties break away politically from the state of Oregon and redraw the border so that they would be included as part of Idaho — though questions obviously remain about where, exactly, the border should be drawn and how an assortment of differing laws between Idaho and the prospective new counties would be reconciled.
State legislatures and Congress would have to approve
Thus far, nine counties have already voted in support of further exploring the idea while two more counties will consider it on their ballots in November — though two counties rejected the idea during the state’s primary elections in May, according to Fox News.
The New York Times reported in May 2021 on the growth of the Greater Idaho movement in recent years and how, at that time, at least five counties in Eastern Oregon had already voted in support of the idea, even though it seems to be a long shot with many obstacles in the way.
In order for the change to actually occur, the Democrat-controlled Oregon legislature would have to approve the secession of the breakaway counties, and the Republican-controlled Idaho legislature would have to approve those counties being annexed as part of their state, with the entire matter also needing the final approval of Congress in Washington D.C.
A long history of secession talk in Oregon
Interestingly enough, The Oregonian reported in March that the Greater Idaho movement was just the latest iteration of secessionist talk in the state of Oregon which has long entertained ideas of splitting apart or shifting loyalties.
Dating back to the Civil War, some residents of the initially racist territory and state — black people were barred from moving there at first — had considered symbolically joining the Confederacy, but a much more prominent idea of partial secession has been floated since the 1940s, in which the southern counties of Oregon would secede along with the northern counties of California to form an entirely new state known as Jefferson.
As for the more recent Greater Idaho movement, McCaw told Fox News that, if everything goes right, the border could begin to move as soon as 2024, and said, “We’ve proven that people in Eastern Oregon want to pursue this idea, and we’re going to keep trying to get as many of those counties as possible to get on the ballot,” and added, “But it’s time for the legislature to pick up the ball and start this discussion.”