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Judges further block use of Public Service Commission district lines amid lawsuit

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Federal judges have extended a temporary block on the Montana Secretary of State’s office from using the current district lines used to elect the state’s utility oversight board.

A panel of three judges agreed to continue to block the use of the current districts as the debate about redrawing the Public Service Commission lines plays out.

Two former politicians and a college student are suing to stop the Secretary of State from using the established boundaries for the PSC districts. The districts haven’t been redrawn since 2003, and the suit alleges they are now unequal in population.

The panel of three judges wrote in their order for a preliminary injunction that if the issue is left unresolved, there will likely be “significant violations” to the constitutional one person, one vote clause.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen, representing the state, countered that the suit shouldn’t move forward because the legislature should have the opportunity to redraw the districts during their next session in 2023.

Two of the five districts will be up for election in 2022. Lawmakers who oversee the Public Service Commission will meet to discuss the case next week.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.