Helena, Mont. – Yesterday, the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission met to adopt state legislative redistricting criteria. While Montanans from around the state took time to submit comment, attend virtually, and testify in person in favor of nonpartisan districts, three Commission members chose to inject partisanship into written redistricting goals.
“It is truly disappointing to see the Commission toss aside over 400 comments they received from Montanans last week, including those that requested public comment be heard at the beginning of the meeting” said Chairman Don “K” Kaltschmidt. “Public comment is an important part of the redistricting process and in order for the process to be transparent, Montanans need to be heard.”
In a partisan 3-2 vote, the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission adopted language that allows the Commission to consider the partisan makeup of districts when drawing state legislative lines. This allows Democrats to create districts that favor the Democrat party even if an area has a clear majority of Republican constituents.
“Additionally, yesterday’s vote on competitive criteria completely undermines Montana’s rule of law,” said Chairman Kaltschmidt. “Montanans expect their legislative districts to be drawn in a manner that does not favor one political party over another. It is disappointing this decision was made to give Democrats an unfair partisan advantage and it’s evident members of the Commission on the other side of the aisle only obey laws they like.”
For background, the Commission is comprised of five members, including two Republicans and two Democrats. Former University of Montana Law Professor and tribal attorney Maylinn Smith, who is supposed to serve as the non-partisan chair of the Commission but has previously supported Democrat politicians, was appointed by the Montana Supreme Court.
The next Commission meeting will be held in August. While we are discouraged by today’s actions, we hope the Commission will reject partisan gamesmanship in future meetings.