UNION COUNTY, Ore. — Union County voters were to decide whether they want their county commissioners to hold public meetings to discuss shifting the Idaho border to include most of Oregon and form the new state of Greater Idaho.
If voters pass Measure 31-101, according to the ballot measure, the Union County Board of Commissioners will have to “meet on the second Wednesday, February, June and October to promote the interest of Union County in any negotiations regarding relocating the state border of Idaho to include Union County.”
Election results were unavailable at press time.
Commissioner Donna Beverage said the board has not discussed moving the border. However, if the measure passes, the commissioners are committed to holding the meetings.
Ross Burkhart, professor of political science at Boise State University, said this is the first step in what is likely to be a long process if approved.
“My understanding from reading the U.S. Constitution is it is a lengthy process to change the borders of a state,” Burkhart said. “All of the legislatures would have to agree to change the border. Oregon, Idaho and California state legislatures and U.S. Congress would have to agree with border changes. Starting the discussion at the county level and getting support there would be part of this lengthy process.”
This measure is part of the effort to change the borders to join a portion of Oregon and California with Idaho. The group, Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, reported it would like to join the Republican-majority Idaho because the state better represents the ideas and attitudes of the majority of the residents of Eastern Oregon and Northern California.
Grant Darrow, Union County’s captain of the Move Oregon’s Border movement, confirmed the measure is just the first step in the process.
“The first step is to poll the people,” Darrow said. “Any movement you have, you have to have a majority of the people decide if that is something they want to do. It then becomes the responsibility of the state to facilitate the changes.”
If Union County residents and commissioners consider it is in the best interest of the county to move its border to be part of Idaho, the county will petition the state government to listen. Each county involved in the effort will have to do the same, and then state legislatures will decide if it is in the state’s best interest to reconfigure the border.
Burkhart said the historic connections and similar ideologies are a strong backbone for the movement.
“From a regional standpoint, the southwestern part of the state of Idaho, with Boise as its main urban area, often takes into account parts of Eastern Oregon,” Burkhart said. “There are historical and regional connections between the two areas.”
Jefferson, Douglas and Wallowa counties were to vote on a measure similar to Union County’s. The effort to move the border includes Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla and Wheeler counties. However, there were no measures on the ballots in those counties requiring the discussion or consideration of joining Greater Idaho.
While Oregon is considered more left leaning, the eastern part of the state tends to align with Idaho’s conservative attitudes. Burkhart noted that in removing parts of Oregon from legislative consideration, there would be a loss of political competition in the state.
“Oregon does have a competitive two-party system with eastern more conservative, and west Democratic, that would certainly be lost if you move the Republican side out of the state,” Burkhart said. “For democracy to function you need both points of view, and that would be missing.”
He warned that even when changing the border, the political leanings of an area may not remain that way forever.
“Political portions can change, there can be partisan movements,” Burkhart said. “Just because a group says they want to join another place equally conservative, that doesn’t mean it is going to be conservative forever. Things can change too, changing from one area to another based on ideology is a strategy that may work, or it may not work.”
The Union County ballot measure also establishes a $125 civil fine if anyone prohibits, cancels or hinders any of the meetings.
“These secessionist movements aren’t unknown in the state of Oregon,” Burkhart said. “They are movements that are trying to find solutions that are outside of internal state politics. One thing to consider is trying to solve a problem by moving to a different state as one way to approach a problem, but another way is working within the state.”