Citizens for Greater Idaho President Mike McCarter brought a box filled with sheets containing 3,689 signatures to the elections office at the Douglas County Courthouse Tuesday.
If at least 2,955 of them are valid — signed by county residents who are registered to vote — then Douglas County voters will be asked to vote in May on whether they want to allow county officers to advocate for Idaho legislation that could move the state’s borders.
Ultimately, Citizens for Greater Idaho’s goal is to see the border of Idaho moved to include all of rural Eastern and Southwestern Oregon.
A small group of supporters gathered in front of the courthouse Tuesday to hear from McCarter before he brought the signatures.
Jim Miller of Rice Valley, however, was not a fan. He asked McCarter why he wanted to leave Oregon.
McCarter said those who wanted the border moved believe rural representatives are being ignored in Salem. Small business taxes would be lower in Idaho, too, he said.
But Miller said Idaho has “always been known as a hotbed for militant action.”
“Oregon used to be anti-Black and it seems to me that sometimes you’re wanting to go back to that,” he said.
McCarter denied the assertion.
“Move Oregon’s Border and Greater Idaho is colorblind, period,” he said.
Several supporters in the audience then peppered Miller with questions. Was he a socialist? Did he believe in the Second Amendment?
While Miller was outnumbered on Tuesday, and his reasons may have been unique, many Douglas County residents have previously indicated reluctance to ditch Oregon for Idaho.
The county’s voters rejected a similar measure in 2020 by a margin of 57% to 43%. The 2020 measure was an advisory question referred to the ballot by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
No Southwestern Oregon counties have so far approved the idea.
The idea has gained better traction in Eastern Oregon, where five counties voted in May to support moving the border and joining Idaho.
McCarter thinks the Douglas County vote will go differently this time.
“Back then in November 2020, we were a brand new movement. The word hadn’t gotten out,” he said.
The group didn’t have the money it needed to pay for advertising, he said.
Now, he said, contributions are coming in. They’re not from corporations or political groups, he said, just from ordinary people. He said he even opened a check last night from a contributor in Florida.
“I think there’s a hope that if we get to where we’re achieving some of this that other states can do it too,” he said.
He also believes there’s a political reason it could go differently this time.
“The difference now is that the state leadership has done a few more things that bothered a lot of rural Oregonians,” he said.
Things like vaccine and mask mandates, he said, coupled with small business taxes he said are too high.
Douglas County Clerk Dan Loomis said this was the first countywide measure intended for the May 2022 ballot for which signatures have been submitted.
Even if Douglas County votes in favor of the new measure in May, the vote on its own wouldn’t mean they were seceding from the state.
Actually moving state borders requires approval of the legislatures of both states and of Congress.
McCarter said the group had also collected signatures for a Klamath County measure and planned to turn those in at the Klamath County Courthouse on Thursday.