Montana
State BoundariesDrawn by independent redistricting commission
Governor's PartyDemocratic
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

State Legislative

Alert:
Low

Congressional

Alert:
Low

Process

Independent Redistricting Commission

Montana's state legislative and congressional districts are drawn by an independent redistricting commission. The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission is composed of five members; the majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and House each appoint one member, and these four members collectively appoint the fifth, who serves as the chairperson. You can see the 2020 commissioners here.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Montana’s state constitution (Art. V § 14) requires that state legislative districts be compact and contiguous. A Montana state statute (Code §5-1-115) also requires legislative and congressional districts to preserve political subdivisions, prohibits the consideration of partisan data, and forbids the favoring or disfavoring of a party or candidate for office. Finally, the Commission adopted additional guidelines in 2010 that protect communities of interest.

Public Input

Per Montana state statute (Code §5-1-108), the Commission must hold at least one public hearing before submitting proposed plans to the Legislature. During the last redistricting cycle, that required hearing took place on December 19, 2012. Additionally, before a proposed plan was introduced, the Commission held 14 hearings across the state. You can view the Commission’s scheduled hearings for this cycle and submit written comments on its website.

2011 Cycle

In the 2011 redistricting cycle, plaintiffs brought a challenge in state court (Willems v. Montana) over the practice of assigning holdover senators, or senators with two years left in their term, to new districts, depriving those constituents of an opportunity to elect a new senator. The Montana Supreme Court rejected the challenge to holdover districts, finding some staggered seats to be necessary.

Issues

Pitfalls

One potential concern is the underrepresentation of native populations. In 2011, Joe Lamson, a member of the Districting and Apportionment Commission, presented information showing that roughly 9,000 Native Americans were not counted in the U.S. Census. If such an undercount were to happen again, a possible remedy would be to petition the results of the census. Undercounts of vulnerable communities inherently lead to reductions in representation, as districts are based on the population data provided by the Census.

Congressional Seats

Following the 2020 Census apportionment results, Montana gained a congressional seat. This means that Montana will have to conduct congressional redistricting for the first time since the state lost its second seat following the 1990 Census.

Actions

Participate in the Commission’s public input process.

  • Obtain Montana redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the commission starts collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Contacts

Common Cause Montana

League of Women Voters of Montana

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia