MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In Oregon, some residents say they are so frustrated with democratic politics they want to leave the state. Now, they do not want to move. Instead, they want to change the state's borders. In their plan, most of Oregon and a chunk of Northern California would break off and join Idaho, a red state. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Emily Cureton reports.
EMILY CURETON, BYLINE: More than half of all Oregonians live in the Portland metro area, and a supermajority of Oregon lawmakers are Democrats.
MIKE MCCARTER: We're afraid of what's coming down legislatively. It'll destroy rural Oregon.
CURETON: Mike McCarter lives 200 miles from Portland in a remote town called La Pine, population 1,900.
MCCARTER: And I grew up in the '50s and the '60s, and it was a great time. It was a blue-collar state.
CURETON: He's a leading organizer with a group called Move Oregon's Border For A Greater Idaho.
MCCARTER: It's a movement to try to maintain our rural values.
CURETON: The messaging hits cultural flashpoints. Idaho has more permissive gun laws and more restrictions on abortion. It doesn't allow sanctuary cities, nor does it issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Move Oregon's Border is circulating petitions in two rural Oregon counties, with ambitions to get 20 more on board.
University of Oregon political scientist Joe Lowndes says the effort is largely symbolic.
JOE LOWNDES: One of the ways, maybe, to see this moment is as a form of political protest and political theater.
CURETON: He says rallying people around state lines and secession has a rich history in the Pacific Northwest.
LOWNDES: These are largely racially white spaces on indigenous land, so there's something really specific that all these things share.
CURETON: Like 80 years ago, when ranchers, miners and loggers on the California-Oregon border staged a rebellion and proclaimed themselves citizens of the state of Jefferson.
Come this November, voters can't just change borders. The U.S. Constitution says that requires agreement from three state legislatures and Congress.
SHAAKIRRAH SANDERS: Particularly Article IV, Section 3.
CURETON: University of Idaho constitutional law professor Shaakirrah Sanders says if the deal went through, California and Oregon would probably lose representatives in Congress.
SANDERS: And that's usually not something that states like to have happen.
CURETON: And there's another big, green problem.
SANDERS: The growing and selling of marijuana in their states.
CURETON: Legal marijuana has become a pillar of the rural economy in Oregon and California, while Idaho still has some of the country's harshest laws against it. Sanders, a black woman who lives in Boise, Idaho, says she's gotten used to contradictions in American society. She's devoted a career to a document that, when it was written, codified both freedom and slavery.
SANDERS: It's not that strange that the same Constitution that protects an LGBTQ person's right to marry is the same Constitution that someone wants to use to create a super conservative mega-state.
CURETON: And now that same Constitution sets the rules of engagement for a conflict over what it means to be an Oregonian.
For NPR News, I'm Emily Cureton in Bend, Ore.
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