CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — Rural conservatives are trying to escape Oregon’s liberal politics by petitioning to move the state’s borders west, creating “Greater Idaho.”

Gathering signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven difficult, though, so the president of Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho filed a federal lawsuit seeking a reduction of the number of signatures required to get the initiative on ballots in rural Oregon counties.

The group wants a majority of Oregon’s land to be absorbed by Idaho, along with a portion of Northern California.

“If you love your county but you are sick of your state government, then help us move the state border,” Move Oregon’s Border president Mike McCarter wrote in a June press release. “Idaho’s governance fits our needs and our values better.”

A map showing the proposed boundaries of “Greater Idaho” (Courtesy Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho)

Now, McCarter is arguing fear of contracting COVID and Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders prohibiting large gatherings have made it more difficult to collect the required number of signatures in each county.

“The public-health emergency caused by COVID-19 and the various orders issued by the Governor under color of law make it apparently unlawful and practically impossible to gather petition signatures in these counties,” the suit reads. “Even during Phase II, the Governor requires this distance of six feet to be maintained. lt is impossible to politely throw someone a pen and a clip board from a distance of six feet.”

McCarter filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court pro se, meaning he is representing himself. Oral arguments are scheduled for July 20.

He is not sure how far Judge Michael McShane might be willing to lower the signature requirements. However, McCarter told KOIN 6 News his group is “pretty confident in how the judge is going to rule” because he already showed an inclination to place the “People, Not Politicians” measure on the November ballot. The backers of the anti-gerrymandering measure failed to collect the number of signatures usually needed to qualify.

Changing state boundaries would require more than just a yes vote by all the involved counties. All three state legislatures and the U.S. Congress would need to approve the change.