Montana Public Radio

Montana Commission Debates Criteria For New Legislative Districts

Jun 10, 2021

The two Democrats and two Republicans in charge of redrawing the state’s new congressional and legislative districts are in disagreement over how to start drawing lines.

The U.S. Census Bureau has not yet released the final data states need to start drawing districts, but Montana’s Districting and Apportionment Commission met Thursday to talk about the rules that will guide the process.

The debate focuses on whether the Commission should be required, or have the option, to draw lines that follow existing political subdivisions such as counties, school districts and American Indian reservations.

Republican Dan Stusek says it should be mandatory. 

“In order to have this as something that makes sense for our election officers, makes sense for our towns and communities, often overlapping with the communities of interest, that this should be mandatory,” Stusek says.

Democrat Joe Lamson says that criteria should be discretionary to give the commission more flexibility in drawing the state’s new political map. 

“We are building a state Legislature, and a Legislature deals with a whole variety of topics way beyond any of the political units there,” Lamson says.

Making this criteria mandatory could lead to county interests outweighing statewide interests according to Lamson.

Republicans’ and Democrats’ opposing criteria are posted online at leg.mt.gov. Commissioners are soliciting public comment to help them decide how to proceed. The commission will meet again in July to vote on the final criteria they will use to draw the state’s districts.