Montana Public Radio

Montana Gains Second U.S. House Seat

Apr 27, 2021

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that Montana will gain a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Voters will get to elect the new congressperson in 2022. 

Montana added 95,000 more residents since 2010. The 10% increase was enough to give the state additional representation in Congress.

The state first gained a second House seat in 1913, but lost it after the 1990 Census. 

Maylinn Smith, the nonpartisan presiding officer of the state Districting and Apportionment Commission, and a civil prosecutor for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, says a second congressional seat is overdue. 

“To have one person representing the diversity within a state this big, I think is a challenge. So at least having two gives more access to your representative for the voters.”

The commission has five members including Smith, two Republicans and two Democrats. It’s charged now with drawing the state into two districts. It’ll have 90 days to hold public hearings and start that process once it receives more data from the federal government in August or September.

Montana is the most underrepresented state in Congress with more residents in one district than any other. 

Joe Lamson, a Democratic appointee to the commission, was the last campaign manager to get a Montana Democrat elected to a House seat. That was in 1995. It’s been in Republican control since. Lamson says the commission will try to make the districts as competitive as possible for new political control. 

“That is neither red nor blue, but a good candidate that has a good message for all Montanans, has a fair chance of making their case and being successful.”

Dan Stusek is a Republican-appointee to the commission and says the board will be open to ideas from residents on what those districts should look like. 

“We’ll be sure to look for as much transparency and fairness and public input as we can throughout this whole process.”

The commission will hold preliminary meetings this summer to plan how that process will go.