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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Federal judges create new map outlining Montana's Public Service Commission districts

The map of Montana's Public Service Commission districts created by federal judges, March 8, 2022.
The map of Montana's Public Service Commission districts created by federal judges, March 8, 2022.

A panel of federal judges has struck down the current map outlining the districts for Montana’s utility oversight commission and implemented a new one. The order comes days before the filing deadline for candidates running for the commission.

The judges are ordering Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen to adopt the new district map for the Public Service Commission ahead of the 2022 election, ruling the current map unconstitutionally malapportioned.

The new map creates districts closer in population size. Upper Seven Law’s Constance Van Kley represented the plaintiffs when they made their case in court last week. She later spoke with MTPR about why proper representation matters for ratepayers.

“When you vote for a Public Service Commissioner, that Public Service Commissioner is your voice in dealing with entities that would otherwise just charge you as much as possible.”

Secretary Jacobsen reluctantly offered a new map for the judges to consider, saying she preferred to have the Legislature redraw the map. The plaintiffs offered three proposals.

After lawmakers were unable to muster support for a special session to redraw the districts, the federal judges deferred to the secretary’s proposed map with one tweak to avoid splitting the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

That map is now in place for 2022, although the judges noted lawmakers have the ability at any time to call a special session and redraw it.

Speaker of the House Wylie Galt says he’s disappointed by the court’s decision, but appreciates that the new map makes as few changes to the current lines as possible.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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