Lawmakers seek changes to proposed state legislative district maps
Republican lawmakers are continuing to question the constitutionality of the proposed maps for the state's political boundaries. They’ve advanced amendments that they want to see in the final drawing.
As requested by Montana's independent Districting and Apportionment Commission, lawmakers are asking for amendments to the newly proposed legislative districts.
Republicans say that the commission “often sacrificed constitutionally mandatory compactness for discretionary competitiveness” That language is included in the official resolution that lawmakers advanced containing their amendments on a near party line vote in the state senate.
Republican Sen. Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton says the resolution highlights, “The Republican opinion of the way things should be and what we believe is unconstitutional.”
In a hearing last Friday, the chair of the districting commission, Maylinn Smith, stood by the proposed maps, saying that she advanced them because she believes they’re fair and defensible in court.
Democratic Sen. Ryan Lynch of Butte said that he supports some of the more minor changes proposed to keep counties whole. But his caucus opposes any major shifts to the proposed districts.
“It may have an impact and it may have an effect and it may have a ripple across districts. So I guess I would say, be careful what you wish for,” Lynch said.
Republicans are asking the districting commission to redraw lines in the Flathead to keep Whitefish and Columbia Falls in separate districts, redraw lines in Gallatin County to create urban and rural districts, and redraw lines in Billings and Missoula for the same reason.
Republicans argue that the map advanced by the commission gives Democrats an undue advantage by reducing the number of safe Republican seats to 60. The party currently holds 68 seats.
The resolution will now head to the House State Administration Committee for consideration.
A Republican backed constitutional amendment would prohibit the use of political data to draw election maps, and give lawmakers more say over a process that is largely out of their control.
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