The debate over how to draw Montana’s new congressional district — along with its 150 legislative districts — began to take shape Thursday, as a bipartisan state commission discussed priorities for its once-per-decade redistricting process.
The meeting of the state Districting and Apportionment Commission provided one of the first public glimpses of how the partisan debate will shake out over the next few years, with the April announcement that Montana will gain a second congressional district in 2022 pushing the stakes higher.
The five-person body comprises two members from each major political party, plus a nonpartisan member selected by the state Supreme Court.
State and federal law sets limits on the process, like requiring that districts be nearly equal in population, contiguous and relatively compact. But Republicans and Democrats on the committee advanced competing proposals for the other criteria that will guide the process.
Republicans argued, in part, that priority should be given to existing political boundaries, like county lines and school district borders.