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Redistricting Recommendations Sent To SOS, Commission

The legislature sent its recommendations for legislative districts to the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission and secretary of state on Thursday, Feb. 2.

The redistricting commission is meeting Feb 10 and 11 to take the legislature’s recommendations into consideration.

The recommendations in Senate Joint Resolution 8 were approved by both chambers and are unchanged from the version that passed unanimously out of the select committee on redistricting last month.

The top portion of SJ 8 outlines bipartisan recommendations, including redrawing the map to keep Broadwater County and Musselshell County contained in one district each, as well as requests to amend districts near Ronan and Hardin to accommodate representatives Joe Read and Paul Green respectively, who testified to the committee that they would be drawn out of their preferred district.

The latter half of the recommendations are from an amendment from the Republican caucus, which alleges the current proposal doesn’t meet constitutional requirements. It requests changes like making Whitefish and Columbia Falls whole, as opposed to being drawn together like they are in the current map.

Rep. Laurie Bishop, D-Livingston, moved on the floor to amend the resolution to include that the tentatively proposed map is more compact than 28 other lower chamber legislative maps across the country, including Texas, California and Georgia.

“As you read through it, you see that a lot of what’s here could ultimately be considered just an opinion,” Bishop said.

She said “compactness” was not clearly defined anywhere. Compactness is one of the commission’s mandatory criteria, and it said it would consider a district’s functional compactness “in terms of travel and transportation, communication, and geography.”

Bishop gave a “hats off” to the commission for drawing a compact map in the fourth-largest state, which was also noted in the amendment.

House Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, said that under a “know it when you see it” metric it was clear to him the map wasn’t compact.

“There are a few districts with a lot of fingers, so many fingers might need a glove,” he said.

The Democratic amendment failed 68-32.

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