Bill to adjust Oregon and Idaho border introduced in Oregon Senate

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — An Oregon State Senator has introduced a bill advancing the cause of the so-called “Greater Idaho” movement, which seeks to adjust state lines to move several conservative-leaning eastern counties out of Oregon, arguing that Idaho would be a better political fit for them.

If passed, SJM2 wouldn’t make any changes on its own; it’s written as a memorandum inviting Idaho political leaders to talk about the idea. But the bill’s chances of going anywhere in Oregon’s Democrat-controlled state legislature are slim.

Oregon’s 2023 legislative session doesn’t officially begin until Jan. 17, but SJM2 was one of several pre-session bills introduced this week after lawmakers gathered on Monday to be sworn in. The chief sponsor is State Sen. Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls).

The bill states that “voting patterns of eastern Oregon have for many decades resembled voting patterns of Idaho,” echoing a common argument from the Greater Idaho movement. It states that 15 Oregon counties “might vote on this issue” and that 11 of them have already done so.

Those 15 counties are not named in the bill, but the Greater Idaho movement’s website separately lists them as Klamath, Lake, Harney, Malheur, Baker, Grant, Union, Wheeler, Morrow, Sherman, Jefferson, Wallowa, Umatilla, Gilliam and Crook counties.

The first 11 counties on that list have indeed all voted to approve symbolic ballot measures expressing support for the Greater Idaho plan, most recently Morrow County and Wheeler County in November.

Wallowa County voters rejected a Greater Idaho ballot measure in 2020, although the movement claimed in a separate news release Tuesday to have gathered enough signatures for another attempt in May.

Douglas, Josephine and Klamath counties have also voted on Greater Idaho ballot measures recently (the movement’s “phase 2” goal is to add southwest Oregon and part of northern California to Idaho), but only the Klamath measure passed, The Oregonian reported.

None of the ballot measures are in any way legally binding — the legislatures of both states and the federal legislature would all have to sign off on any border adjustment.

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