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Redistricting commission adopts final legislative maps

 Montana Capitol.
Shaylee Ragar
Montana Capitol.

Montana’s commission in charge of drawing new political districts has adopted final maps that will be in place for the next decade. Democrats’ map won on a tie-breaking vote.

Using recommendations from the Legislature, feedback from the public and criteria adopted two years ago, the five-member Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission has finished their work drawing 150 legislative districts.

But not before hours of rehashing the debate that has dominated the commission’s work – who will retain power and where. According to data compiled by Democrats on the commission, the map could give Republicans a 20-seat advantage in the House and an 8-seat advantage in the Senate. It projects Democrats picking up a few seats currently held by Republicans.

Republicans voted against the final maps. Republican Commissioner Dan Stusek said the new lines compromise compactness in some districts for political competition.

“This map basically uses political data as its primary focus to draw a plan that unnaturally and intentionally favors the Democratic Party where possible.”

Democratic Commissioner Kendra Miller said the maps are fair.

“It is the result of criteria adopted through lengthy consensus building. Neither side got exactly what they wanted. Neither side got their exact preferred criteria.”

The maps adopted Saturday are not the same that advanced in December. The commission made changes based on feedback from state lawmakers who will see changes to the districts they represent now.

Several amendments were proposed with bipartisan support to make districts more compact or contiguous, but those had little to no impact on the political outcomes the maps will yield.

Republicans proposed a list of their own changes, which were largely voted down by the commission during their final meeting.

The commission will now file the maps with the Montana Secretary of State’s office to use for the 2024 election.

Copyright 2023 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.