HELENA – The commission responsible for dividing Montana into two American neighborhoods for the first time since the 1980s asked the public for its opinion last month. The Montanans responded eagerly, submitting 231 proposed cards, some of them duplicates, and over a hundred pages of written commentary by this week’s initial deadline.
The proposals are, literally, all over the map. They include efforts that consolidate most of the state’s urban areas into a single district and divide the state lengthwise in the northern and southern districts.
Most, however, divide the state into western and eastern districts, which would produce two Republican-leaning House seats, or group Bozeman and Missoula into a southwestern district that would give Democrats in western Montana a better position. chance to compete with Republicans.
The choice between these two strategies seems to be the central debate that will unfold as the District and Allocation Commission develops the congressional map that the Montana election will use for 10 years from 2022. Conservative commentators have generally argued that the commission should take a policy. – blind approach to draw the limits. Any effort to design neighborhoods to encourage competitiveness, they say, should be seen as gerrymandering.
“Ideally you would go to a kindergarten room, don’t tell them any political data, and say, ‘Could you draw two maps? “And I think you’ll get that east-west divide in most cases,” GOP official Terry Nelson said during testimony on Zoom at a committee meeting on Friday. “When you start to see that things are going in all directions, I think that’s when you know there’s political gerrymandering or political patronage going on. “
Some progressive groups, on the other hand, have said adopting a map that creates a competitive district will serve the state better by encouraging less polarizing candidates, even if it’s less geographically elegant.
Allison Dale-Riddle, a Helena resident and political scientist who has worked on Democratic campaigns, told commissioners on Friday that districts that are generally safe seats for one party or the other tend to elect less moderate politicians because elections are effectively decided in party primaries, meaning politicians are motivated to focus their appeal on their party’s grassroots voters rather than independent voters who can rock the results of competitive general elections.
“I am more and more convinced that extreme partisanship has become one of the major problems in our political system, and I am convinced that competitive cards can provide an antidote,” Dale-Riddle said in a public comment. Friday.
Dave’s Redistricting, a website that allows users to create and analyze political maps, says an approach to dividing Montana into compact eastern and western congressional districts would produce two Republican-leaning districts. Based on election results since 2016, a north-south line running just west of Great Falls and just west of Bozeman would produce a western district that has historically voted Republican by a 53-44 margin. and one eastern district that voted Republican by a margin of 57-40.
In contrast, building a southwestern district that includes Missoula, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, and Great Falls while consolidating Kalispell with Billings and eastern Montana, would produce a district that has historically voted Democrat by a bit less than a percentage point, and a Republican Eastern Quarter that historically slopes red 62-35.
Voters in Montana have at times elected Moderate Democrats in statewide elections, putting former governors Brian Schweitzer and Steve Bullock in office for two terms each, and sending Senator Jon Tester, currently in his third term, to Washington, DC no later than 2018. However, it has been more than two decades since the state elected a Democrat to the United States House, and the state as a whole could move further to the right. Republicans swept every statewide race on the 2020 cycle ballot, for example, electing Republican United States Representative Matt Rosendale by a 56-44 margin and voting for Republican President Donald Trump 57-41.
Rosendale, who is currently serving his first two-year term in Congress, has raised more than $ 477,000 to support a likely 2022 reelection bid, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Several other candidates have also announced offers for the United States House in 2022: Republicans Ryan zinké and Al Olszewski as well as the Democrats Monique Tranel, Laurie Bishop, Cora Neumann, and Jack ballard. With the district boundaries not yet drawn, it is unclear which candidates will compete directly.
District commissioners noted on Friday that western Montana’s population growth means the east-west map used by the state in the 1980s, which included Bozeman and Helena in the Western District, is no longer an option. viable without modifications. A mockup prepared by commission staff indicates that with the 2020 population figures, the 1980 western district would have 647,000 inhabitants, compared to 437,000 in the east – roughly three voters in the west for every two to the East.
Unlike states where political boundaries are drawn by partisan state legislatures, the Montana State Constitution specifies that maps of Congress and legislative districts will be drawn after each decennial census by an independent commission of five members. Four of the five members, two from each major party, are appointed by party leaders to the state legislature. The fifth member, a president positioned to be a deciding vote, was appointed this cycle by the Montana Supreme Court.
Data from the 2020 census indicated that Montana added enough residents to regain the second US House seat the state lost as a result of the 1990 census. The district commission, which received detailed census data in August, has until Nov. 14 to file a final Congressional mapping plan with the Montana Secretary of State.
The commissioners plan to meet again on October 5 to choose specific card proposals they will use to solicit public comment. More information about the commission, including instructions for submitting comments, is available at mtredistricting.gov.
The commission will resume its other task of redistributing, redrawing the legislative districts of the state of Montana to reflect population changes over the past decade, next year.
A complete list of proposed Congress maps submitted to the district commission is available at mtredistricting.gov/submitted-congressional-maps.
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