Despite Montana’s dominant one-party control, and a deep-red, conservative populace, the redistricting process in Big Sky State – the oldest concurrent process among the 50 states – cedes control to Democrats (and ultimately, the left-leaning courts) in determining how new congressional lines will be drawn.
Montana is one of only ten states in which the redistricting process is controlled bipartisanly, with the party of power ideally submitting to a bi-partisan process. But because the fifth member of the redistricting board was chosen by the Montana Supreme Court, which is famously liberal, there is actually a 3-2 margin of Democrat control, ensuring gerrymandering and maps that have been submitted for approval designed to create a “Democrat Super-District” among the tiny blue dots to litter Montana’s landscape in the West.
If Democrats are successful – and they certainly have the numbers to be on the commission, the Democrat Super-District will boost Democrat odds at controlling the U.S. House of Representatives and balance out the power of Montana’s currently sole congressman, Matt Rosendale.
By comparison, in the other six least-populace states – Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Delaware – congressional districts are “at large,” meaning that representatives are chosen without respect to geographical location. But again, Montana is different. From the perspective of a conservative, the state’s redistricting process is the worst possible; not only has it invited gerrymandering, it actually orients power to the minority party.
How the districts should be drawn are laid out in a bill passed in 2021, HB506. Several criteria are laid out for how districts should be drawn. These include:
- Based on population, ensuring roughly the same population in each district (roughly within 1%)
- The number of counties and cities divided within a district should be as small as possible (this does not prevent counties or cities being split, but should be weighed into consideration)
- Districts must be contiguous, or in one piece, unbroken geographically
- Districts must be compact, with their length not exceeding their height, any more than necessary while meeting the other qualifications.
- A district must not be drawn to favor one political party over another (read below from HB506)…
However, in Montana, the five-member commission is to be chosen by two Democrats, two Republicans, and one that the two parties can agree upon. In the event they cannot agree, that member is then chosen by the Montana Supreme Court, which will (every time) choose a Democrat to serve on the commission. This is what happened this time around, as in years previous. The court appointed a Native American Democrat attorney, Maylinn Smith, as the “non-partisan” commissioner to serve as tie-breaker between Democrats and Republicans on the commission. She was appointed and nominated by Justice Beth Baker, who has repeatedly thwarted requests from Republican lawmakers to release her emails to the legislature, which would (undoubtedly) prove the court’s bias and perhaps set in motion their impeachment. Meanwhile, Smith has served as an expert not in Montana law, but tribal law. If the reader is new or has recently climbed out from under a rock, Montana’s tribes are notorious for voter fraud and stonewalling efforts for election security. An online opinion blog, the Montana Free Press, quotes Baker as saying that Smith was chosen because she was Native, “[she] said the lawyer would bring diversity to the commission and serve as a bridge to Indian Country.”
Maylinn Smith gives exclusively to Democrat candidates, something easily tracked through online resources. Justice Jim Rice asked her about her one-sided giving and Smith confirmed that she gave only to Democrats, but primarily to former students (apparently she had no Republican students?) and that her time as a judge has taught her to be impartial. Her answer was not entirely truthful; she also gave to Jon Tester’s senatorial campaign.
The commission has presented nine maps and has allowed for roughly twenty to one minutes of public comment on several occasions. To stay most up-to-date on when these occasions for public comment are, please contact the Montana GOP to subscribe to updates from Debbie Churchill at the Montana GOP (an email sign-up is on the front page) and check out Montanans for Limited Government, which has done a good job of informing the public when they may comment on the corrupt process.
Here are the maps, with commentary….
This map has a population difference of only one, follows all the guidelines set forth by law, divides only two counties (Cascade and Gallatin), and is the most compact, with East-West and North-South divides being the most proportional. This is likely the best map presented (some conservatives differ, favoring maps 7 or
RATING: HOT GARBAGE AND ILLEGAL. You can see what the Democrats are trying to do, here. This has a population difference of 87 people, but is not at all compact, and makes no attempt to be proportional, breaking the law set forth in the last session. This is an attempt to make a Democrat Super-District, including Bozeman, Helena, and Butte all in one district with the conservative Flathead Valley in the same district as counties lining the North Dakota border.
The population difference in this map is 560 people, eliminating this as an option in accordance to HB506 which reads, “The districts must be as equal as practicable, meaning to the greatest extent possible, within a plus or minus 1% relative deviation from the ideal population of a district as calculated from information provided by the federal decennial census.”
RATING: HOT GARBAGE AND ILLEGAL. This map has a population difference of only one person, but it divides a total of 3 counties and failes to meet guidelines set forth in 506 for compactness, clearly trying to place the conservative Flathead out of the Democrat Super District.
RATING: MAYBE LIKEABLE, BUT ILLEGAL.
This map has a population difference of 3,775 people, meaning it does not meet the requirements set forth in HB506. In addition, the map is not compact or proportional. If it can pass that test, somehow, it’s not an awful map and could be worse. It splits only two counties but because it goes so far East, might not pass muster legally on those grounds, either. This is probably the third-best option. Some Republicans actually favor this one, but it’s doubtful it could pass the courts.
RATING: HOT GARBAGE. This map fails to meet the most requirements of Montana Law under HB506. It is not compact, it is not proportional, it is clearly designed to benefit one political party, and this is the famous “c-shaped” map that has earned so much conservative ire (deservedly. Notice that it places every liberal(ish) city in Montana in the map and avoids the conservative ones, last election’s Red Wave in Cascade County notwithstanding.
RATING: FAIR, LEGAL. This map splits only one county (and it only barely) and has a small population differential of only 5 people. It is compact and proportional and fits nearly every intent of HB506. This is either the best or second-best map presented.
RATING: HOT GARBAGE, POSSIBLY DRUNKEN, DEFINITELY ILLEGAL.
Not only does the map split four counties, as Rep. Paul Fielder points out, “This map also fails to meet the compactness criteria very badly with one district in a ‘U’ shape and the other district in an ‘M’ shape superimposed on top of the ‘U’ shape. Obviously, this is another attempt to favor the Democratic Party.
RATING: ILLEGAL, DRUNK, AND DISORDERLY
This map is very lop-sided, shaving off the southwest corner of the state, where the “blue dots” are all located, again, in an attempt to create a Democrat super-district.
How the new district lines should be drawn is not up for debate. It is a matter of law. That law, as linked above, is HB506. The requirements set forth for what is considered “fair” are simple enough and explained at the top of this article. Each and every map presented by Democrats serve one primary purpose; to benefit a political party (which is contrary to the law set forth in HB506). In doing so, they break almost all of the other regulations set forth in HB506. It is highly doubtful that the three-Democrat panel will select a map that is legal and will therefore be challenged in court. Ultimately, it is likely that the districting will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.