In a move that further illustrates that a growing portion of Americans do not feel sufficiently represented by their elected officials, seven rural Oregon counties have voted to leave their home state and join Idaho, which they say offers conservative values and policies that more closely match their own.
America was founded by British colonists who voted to separate from their parent country to form a government that better served their interests, by and for the people.
Now, the citizens of seven rural Oregon counties are channeling the same principles of self-determination by voting to leave Oregon for a better state government that actually cares about their needs. In a special election held in Mid-May, voters in Malheur, Sherman, Grant, Baker, and Lake counties recently joined Jefferson and Union counties in voicing their desire to separate from left-leaning Oregon and join with the more right-leaning Idaho.
The move is illustrative of the ideological struggle between rural and urban counties across America, but American history is replete with citizens and state representatives introducing proposals to break away from their parent states to join another state or form their own.
Although the term “secession” is usually associated with the Civil War and 11 slave states that voted to leave the Union itself, there is successful precedent for counties and towns trying to move state borders through separation, and it started early on. For example, in 1777, a northern territory of New York broke away to form what became the de facto but unrecognized sovereign Republic of Vermont for 14 years before being admitted to the Union as the U.S. state of Vermont in 1791. The state of Maine was originally part of Massachusetts.
Residents west of the Appalachian Mountains separated from Virginia and their territory admitted to the U.S. in 1792 as the state of Kentucky. During the Civil War, 50 Union-supporting counties split with the rest of Confederacy-supporting Virginia and would soon thereafter become the state of West Virginia.
In some instances, state borders have changed via land sales, annexation, and cession. As an example, Georgia and North Carolina both sold acreage to neighboring states, and in 1961, Minnesota agreed to transfer some of its territory to North Dakota. And in 1855, a small hamlet in Massachusetts known as Boston Corner was ceded to New York State.
Breakaway movements continue to this day across a growing number of states in all regions of the country. California has gotten the most press on the issue of “state partition” as there has been a long and still ongoing effort to try to break the Golden state into at least two and as many as six different states to ensure that the diverse population is adequately represented. For the past decade, different Illinois representatives have proposed making Cook County — the second most populous county in the U.S. and home to Chicago — a separate state, due to the urban center’s penchant for “dictating its views” onto the rest of the state. In Vermont, the ski resort town of Killington voted on two occasions to symbolically secede from its parent state and join New Hampshire as a protest against high taxes.
The “leave” sentiment is especially strong in Oregon, where rural voters feel altogether ignored by state representatives that have enacted over-the-top left-wing policies. While the larger state population chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a margin of 56 to 40 percent in the 2020 Presidential election, the five counties who most recently voted to join Idaho chose Trump by margins of at least 69 percent and by as much as 79 percent. Trump also won Idaho by securing 64 percent of the vote.
Mike McCarter, head of the organization “Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho,” said, “This election proves that rural Oregon wants out of Oregon. 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.”
The movement is part of a larger initiative called “Greater Idaho.” The goal of the group is for Idaho to absorb about 75 percent of Oregon’s landmass and part of California.
The proposal will only shift the location of state borders, not upset the balance of power as each state involved will still retain two U.S. senators. As to why county residents don’t just physically move to Idaho, the organization’s website explains,
“We love our communities. It’s just the state government we can’t stand. We love Idaho law and low Idaho taxes. We’ve invested years into relationships with friends, family, employers, churches, shops, and the land. Our counties vote conservative. It makes more sense for conservative counties to be under Idaho governance than Oregon governance…. Oregon passes laws that kill industries in eastern, central, and southern Oregon. They don’t protect us from rioters, forest arsonists, or school curricula that teach kids to hate Americans and Americanism. And they pass laws that violate our conscience. We can’t let our money support their system anymore. We are outnumbered, we don’t have leverage, and things will continue to get worse.”
The group says the move would be a win-win because the northwest urban part of Oregon would be free of what leftist state government officials frequently deride as “low-income, Trump-voting counties.”
“Idaho respects traditional morality and justice, and it doesn’t get in the way of rural livelihoods. It has a lower tax rate and a lower cost of living,” the group stated. “We need to unite our neighbors around the idea of moving the border so that we can convince state legislators to stop holding our counties captive in a blue state.”
Idaho Gov. Brad Little, R, supports the move by Oregon counties, but a law redrawing state borders would have to be passed in both the Idaho and Oregon legislatures and Congress would also have to give its stamp of approval.
Unfortunately, the likelihood that Oregon would ever approve such a loss of territory (not to mention the tax base and the electoral power) is probably next to nil. But whether the counties are successful or not in successfully seceding from Oregon, the decision by so many counties to vote in favor of joining Idaho shows the depths of their displeasure with Oregon’s government and the very real divide between urban liberals and rural conservatives.
The Oregon legislature should approve the move if Idaho agrees to grant financial compensation. What could be more American than separating from an oppressive government that does not represent you to join a less restrictive government that shares your values?
America should honor the ideals of self-determination and decentralization by supporting “state choice.” In allowing counties to join the state that best represents their views, citizens will be able to ensure their taxes are spent in a way agreeable to them and to live their lives in the way that they see fit. And the thought that some states could lose taxpayers and jobs to a competing state might be just the incentive that unaccountable government officials need to finally start taking the needs and opinions of their residents just a little more seriously.