Seven years ago, keen for a more conservative lifestyle, Mike McCarter, a firearms instructor in La Pine, Ore., considered moving to Idaho.
While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won Oregon in 2016 with 50.1 percent of the vote, then-Republican candidate Donald Trump swept up Idaho with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
McCarter’s group is asking 18 Oregon counties to approve their petitions to open communications with Oregon’s legislature. Three have in the past week, McCarter said. Once approved, the group still would need to collect signatures of about 6 percent of the counties’ populations for local voters to see the referendum on their November ballots, the Oregonian recently reported.
Both state legislatures and Congress would need to approve the change, per the U.S. Constitution.
The move might upset Idaho’s conservative base, which has long feared an influx of California residents. A surge from the blue state prompted some in Idaho to make bumper stickers with slogans like “Welcome to Idaho, now go home” and “Don’t Californicate Idaho.”
But McCarter said the addition of Oregon’s counties would improve Idaho, including giving the landlocked state its first ocean port.
Phase two of the plan would be to recruit California’s northern counties, McCarter said.
The proposal has already received support from some lawmakers, including Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif (R), who put up a map of the “Greater Idaho” in his office.
“If Portland is trying to divide the state of Oregon, then they are doing an excellent job and will provide all the more reasons to make this happen,” Leif said in an email to The Washington Post. “It would be in the best interest to let Portland be Oregon and let us secede to Idaho.”
Idaho has reportedly served as a conservative sanctuary before. This past summer, Republican lawmakers fled the capital, possibly to Idaho, to avoid voting on a climate change measure, prompting Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) to call the police.
This also isn’t the first time in recent history that the borders of Oregon have faced a proposed change. Several groups have supported the “state of Jefferson,” which would comprise northern California and southwestern Oregon.
One of the movement’s leaders, Mark Baird, said he supports the petitions and plans to join the group.
“Rural people and rural counties no longer have a voice,” he said. “I, as an individual, recognize that a rising tide floats all boats. If this turns out to be the shortest route to liberty and representation, I’ll give it a go.”
But support for the state of Jefferson has yet to gain momentum. McCarter said it’s easier to move a border than create a state, citing a case in 1961 when about 20 acres of land were transferred from Minnesota to North Dakota.
“I can live right where I am, with the great pines and river across from me, and still have the benefits of Idaho,” he said. “I suppose it’s like the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.”
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