Sherman, Jefferson, Grant, Union, Baker, Malheur, Harney, Lake.
Those are the eight Oregon counties which have already voted in favor of the Greater Idaho movement, requiring their county governments to consider the possibility of joining the state next door.
On Thursday, some voters in Klamath County were determined to become next on that list as they submitted signatures to the county clerk in hopes of landing the measure on the ballot in May 2022.
A small group gathered outside the Klamath County Government Center in support.
“Klamath County was one of the first ones that approved our petition request,” President of Move Oregon’s Border and Citizens for Greater Idaho Mike McCarter said. “It’s taken almost two years now to get enough signatures in because of COVID conditions.”
Leaders in the Greater Idaho movement gathered 2,897 signatures across Klamath Co., which is just over 1,200 more than the number required to make it on the ballot.
“A lot of the signatures are rejected because they’re not registered voters or they’re registered in some other county, or the county clerk cannot take and read their signature or their name,” McCarter said. “We figure about 20% more signatures is a good number to have in; in this particular case we’re almost double the signatures.”
“It’s a process of the people speaking out,” he added. “They want to be able to vote on this issue. And that’s good, because if they’re against it, they should be able to vote that way; if they’re for it, they should be able to vote, and that’s the way a representative government works.”
Some attendees had personally helped gather signatures.
“As I became more involved, I found out how credible it was, and how important it was to the people of Klamath County, including my family,” attendee Allen Headley said. “We weren’t represented, and we still aren’t, in the southern part of this district in Salem.”
The ballot measure would require the county to hold meetings about the proposal, but moving the border would still require approval in both the state and U.S. legislatures.
Still, other counties are slowly joining the fight.
“We have another county that is coming on board next week with a petition,” McCarter said. “We’ve got petitions [applications] out in three more counties, and we’ve got four counties that have petitions going.
“So the total is about 19 counties that we’re working with, trying to get this passed.”
Their reasons are many.
“I hear that all the time, ‘why don’t you just pick up and go to Idaho?’ Well, we love where we live,” McCarter said. “Our families are close, many people have generations of land ownership. They don’t want to lose that. But they need to have the opportunity to change who governs us, and that’s what we’re after.”
“This is a moment in history that six months ago I was hoping for, and it is here,” Headley said. “And hopefully the rest of Southern Oregon will join upon this venture and try to make this happen, and this is what democracy is all about.”
McCarter said they have received many questions about the complexities of counties joining another state, and whether it is legitimately conceivable.
“Yes, there are a lot of steps involved in it,” he said. “But that’s why it needs to go to the Oregon legislature, and work with the Idaho legislature in figuring out all those details.”
For more information about the Greater Idaho movement, visit their website at greateridaho.org.