Montana’s Political Lineup
The congressional deadline is within a 90 day period after the final decennial census figures are available. However, since the state has one congressional district no changes will be made. For state legislative districting, the plan must be submitted to the legislature at the first regular session after the Districting and Apportionment commission has been appointed or census data is available. The legislature then has 30 days to submit recommendations, and the commission has 30 more days to file the plan. The plan must be filed by the 10th day of the 2003 session.
Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?
The five-member Districting and Apportionment Commission is in charge of both congressional (when Montana had two districts, which it may again in 2002) and state legislative redistricting. Leaders of the four caucuses in both houses each choose a civilian member. The existing four members of the commission choose a fifth member who serves as chair. The governor has no veto power over any redistricting plan.
|Districting Principles |
Between eight and twelve mandatory public hearings are held statewide and 10 commission meetings are usually held. The commission has set up a website.
The process has been less partisan than in many states. District lines are actually drawn by nonpartisan researchers with guidance from the commission. The only anticipated concern is protecting the seven large Indian reservations in the state from minority vote dilution. Montana lost a district after the 1990 census and now elects its representative at-large.
The state has swung strongly to Republicans in the state legislature in the last decade. There is only one U.S. House district despite the fact that the state's population likely will top one million by 2010.
After the 1990 census, Montana lost one of its two congressional seats after reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. The state of Montana sued the U.S. Department of Commerce claiming that the census bureau's method of assigning seats (the method of equal proportions) did not achieve the greatest possible equality in the number of persons per representative. In rejecting Montana's claim, the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out that this method of reapportionment has been used since the 1920 census and does achieve the smallest relative difference between the populations per representative of districts among the states.
Montana's legislative district plan was challenged by a group of Native Americans claiming minority vote dilution under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court dismissed the claim and noted the plaintiff's failure to show racial bloc-voting by white voters in the affected areas.