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Government & Politics

Commission To Begin Redrawing Montana Legislative And Congressional Districts

Shaylee Ragar
Montana Public Radio
Joe Lamson, a Democrat on Montana's districting commission, is particularly fond of this map showing the state's legislative districts as drawn in the early 2000s.

The Republicans and Democrats on Montana’s Districting and Apportionment Commission are expected to present conflicting plans for drawing the state’s districts at a Thursday meeting.

The districting and apportionment committee is scheduled to meet to discuss possible criteria to draw new lines for 100 legislative districts — and for the first time in three decades, two Congressional districts.

Dan Stusek and Jeff Essman, the Republicans on the committee, say the goal of their criteria is to “reduce the temptation for partisan gamesmanship.”

Stusek says they pulled ideas from past districting commissions and from other states.

“Jeff and I certainly don’t expect the commission to endorse verbatim what we presented. However, we believe all of the concepts in our proposed mandatory and discretionary criteria are important."

Stusek and Essman say in a news release that their criteria are different from requirements passed into law by Republican legislators this spring. Stusek said it’ll be up to the courts to decide what happens if lawmakers choose to challenge the criteria the commission uses.

The two Democratic members of the commission will come to Thursday's meeting with their own plan for redrawing the state’s political map.

Democrat Joe Lamson says he has some concerns about Republicans’ proposal to make it mandatory for the commission to consider current political subdivision lines of Montana towns, cities, counties, and Indian reservations, saying those don’t account for population.

“Our fundamental goal is that we have to draw 100 districts with equal population for a Legislature. We’re not building a Montana Association of Counties.”

The commission won’t vote on any final criteria until their July meeting after receiving public comment.

The committee will meet on June 10 at 1 p.m. in the state Capitol, room 102.

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