Redistricting Off to a Rocky Start

By Beacon Staff

Redistricting, and the way in which a panel will be chosen to draw new legislative boundaries, is getting ugly before it even gets started.

Every ten years, Republicans and Democrats each appoint two members to the Districting and Apportionment Commission who then choose a fifth person to chair the commission within 20 days. If the four can’t agree on the final member, the Montana Supreme Court chooses for them.

All this is laid out in the Montana Constitution. Still, the process is a bit confusing, has far-reaching implications and Republicans (at least this year) want to change it. Here’s why, from the <a href="http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/apportionment_committee_to_be_named/9442/" title="Associated Press“>Associated Press:

Republicans still are disturbed by work of the 2000 commission, controlled 3-2 by Democrats. Commissioners redrew districts in ways that Republicans thought favored Democrats unfairly. Those districts took effect in 2004 and are in place until 2012 …

… Senate Majority Leader Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, has suggested that Democrats and Republicans each nominate several choices for the commission and allow the public to comment on those choices.

“I just think it sets the right tone,” he said at a Capitol meeting on Monday.

Democrats, however, aren’t interested. From the Billings Gazette:

Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, and House Majority Leader Margarett Campbell, D-Poplar, said they see no need to alter the procedure as outlined in the state constitution and as carried out in the past, with leaders simply naming four of the five members, without making nominations.

“With everything that’s going on in the session, I would like to keep it as simple as possible,” Campbell said.

At any rate, expect the swing vote to once again be chosen by the high court.

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