Posted: Aug 14, 2012 3:23 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Aug 15, 2012 11:37 AM
HELENA- A political battle is underway as a group of commissioners are drawing up Montana's legislative districts this week.
Two Republicans and two Democrats sit on the Redistricting Commission, and then former Supreme Court Justice Jim Regnier acts as the swing vote between the two parties.
The commission must keep each district equal in population and it must protect the voting rights of minorities, in accordance with Montana Law.
The commission is also trying to keep in mind county and city boundaries and the geography of the land.
One thing both parties agree upon is that since the last maps were drawn up 10 years ago the population of Montana has shifted and they need to take that into consideration.
Republicans are pushing a series of maps which Democrats say favor conservative voters.
"It magnifies strong rural votes and then moves those into the more suburban or urban areas whenever possible so that they dilute the other side's vote," redistricting commissioner Joe Lamson said.'
Republicans are also criticizing the Democrat's plan which they say magnifies the liberal vote.
"They blend a lot of the urban areas with suburban and rural. We think that really disenfranchises people in the urban areas or the rural areas, they are not going to get the kind of representation that they want. They want someone who is actually going to represent their area," commissioner Jon Bennion said.
The Redistricting Commission hopes to have all 100 House districts drawn up by the end of this week. Then they will begin matching the Senate districts with each one.
The new map should be in place by the end of the next legislative session.