Aug 15, 2012 6:56 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
A political battle is underway as a Commission is drawing up Montana's legislative districts this week.
Two Republicans and two Democrats sit on the Redistricting Commission, and former Supreme Court Justice Jim Regnier is acting as the swing vote between the two parties.
By law, the Commission must keep each district equal in population and it must protect the voting rights of minorities. 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 ten years ago, the population of Montana has shifted and they need to take that into consideration.
Democratic Redistricting Commissioner Joe Lamson says the maps that Republicans are pushing 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," Lamson says.
Republicans are criticizing the Democrats' plan, which they say magnifies the liberal vote.
Republican Redistricting Commissioner Jon Bennion says Democrats blend a lot of the urban areas with suburban and rural areas.
"We think that really disenfranchises people in the urban areas and the rural areas. They are not going to get the kind of representation that they want," Bennion says. "They want someone who is actually going to represent their area."
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.