Five eastern Oregon counties voted Tuesday for officials to begin taking steps to become part of Idaho.

Thousands of voters across Sherman, Lake, Grant, Baker and Malheur counties in Oregon voted for measures that will require elected county officials to meet to consider a possible border move to become part of Idaho.

Sherman County's ballot measure went furthest in its language and requires county commissioners to promote realigning the borders. The other four counties simply voted that county commissioners are required to meet a few times a year to discuss the prospect of moving the state lines.

In the five counties, an average of 62% of voters favored the measures.

The five counties are joined by two other Oregon counties, Union and Jefferson, which had already voted in favor of the border negotiations last November.

Greater Idaho officials say voters in Harney and Douglas counties will vote on similar measures in future elections.

The ballot measures are the first major step in the "Greater Idaho" project, which would allow some Oregon counties to join Idaho, a state that advocates say more closely aligns with residents' political and cultural preferences.

The Greater Idaho project, if successful, would extend Idaho's jurisdiction over rural, conservative counties of eastern and southern Oregon.

Advocates of the move say eastern Oregon has little in common with western Oregon and identifies much more with Idaho.

For example, Oregon currently has two Democratic senators in the U.S. Senate and has voted blue in presidential elections since 1988, while Idaho has two Republican U.S. senators and has voted red in presidential elections since 1968. Eastern Oregon, like Idaho, runs red.

In a statement Wednesday, Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, said this week's election results show the movement is gaining traction and has potential.

"This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon," said McCarter. "If Oregon really believes in liberal values such as self-determination, the Legislature won't hold our counties captive against our will. If we're allowed to vote for which government officials we want, we should be allowed to vote for which government we want as well."

But McCarter's optimism is about to face a series of tests. That's because this week's ballot measure votes are just the first steps in a complicated, multi-step process that would ultimately require approval from the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures and Congress, which at present is controlled by Democrats.

Despite the long road ahead, the Greater Idaho project's advocates say they are happy to have support from Idaho's governor, the leadership of both Idaho legislative chambers and dozens of legislators.

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