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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Republican lawmakers object to proposed legislative district maps

A long line of Republican lawmakers have voiced dismay with proposed maps outlining Montana’s new legislative districts. Lawmakers can offer feedback but can’t change the maps.

Republicans are opposing the maps that came from the Districting and Apportionment Commission after Democrats won the non-partisan chair’s tie-breaking vote to advance their map proposals in December.

In a draft of lawmakers’ recommendations to the commission, Republican Sen. Jason Ellsworth from Hamilton laid out several concerns with the maps, including the splitting of a few towns, communities of interest and the compactness of some districts.

“I don’t think … the heart of the Constitution hasn’t been followed,” Ellsworth said.

Two dozen lawmakers and Montana residents agreed with Ellsworth in a committee hearing reviewing the Legislature's feedback. Many also took issue with the districting commission using political competitiveness as a criteria to draw districts.

Republicans criticized districts in the Flathead, Great Falls, central and eastern Montana for including both rural and urban areas.

Montana GOP chairman Don Kaltschmidt said he sees the proposed districts as politically beneficial to Democrats. He said in an interview with MTPR after the meeting he thinks there is an appetite among Republicans to challenge the proposed maps in court if the commission declines to make amendments.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy from Box Elder said he’s seen the suppression of Native Americans voters through redistricting and knows what unfair districts look like. He said he supports the maps proposed.

“So I understand not being heard. I understand not being represented,” Windy Boy said.

Lawmakers will continue taking public comment until Thursday at noon, and will meet with the chair of the districting commission on Friday morning in the Capitol.

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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