Montana

State website: leg.mt.gov/css/Committees/Interim/2011-2012/Districting
2010-cycle districts: State legislative plan  « NEW 
2000-cycle districts: General website, State legislative plan
Primary governing law: Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-101 - 115

The Latest

The independent commission scheduled public hearings to review input on proposed maps, and released a tentative plan on August 17, 2012. Final recommendations to the legislature were passed on December 6 and delivered to the legislature on January 8. After considering feedback from the legislature, the commission produced a final plan on February 12, 2013. Challenges to the state Senate plan were rejected by the state courts.

  • Institution

    Redistricting political control:

    Governor State Senate State House
    Congressional lines n/a
    State legislative lines Independent commission with balanced partisan composition
    2000 cong. lines n/a
    2000 state lines Independent commission with balanced partisan composition


    Montana's congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member independent commission, created in 1994. Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) each select one commissioner, and those four commissioners choose one more as chair; in 2009, because the first four commissioners were unable to agree on a chair, the Montana Supreme Court selected the fifth commissioner. The commissioners are listed here. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14]

    The state constitution provides that no commissioner may be a public official. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14] State law further requires that two of the first four commissioners must be selected from certain counties (roughly, in the Montana Rockies to the west) and two must be selected from the rest of the state (to the east); though state cases suggest that this statute may unlawfully limit discretion under the state constitution, the commissioners chosen in 2009 do comply with the statutory requirement. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-102; Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765, 771 (Mont. 2004); Brown v. Mont. Districting & Apportionment Comm'n, No. ADV 2003-72, 2003 ML 1896 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003)]


  • Timing

    Census data were delivered to Montana on March 15, 2011.

    The Montana state constitution requires the independent commission to submit a plan to the legislature in the first legislative session after the census figures are available; the session begins on January 7, 2013, and ends at most 90 legislative days later. After the plan is submitted, the legislature must return recommendations within 30 days, and the commission must produce final maps within 30 days thereafter. [Mont. Const. art. V, §§ 6, 14; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-2-103] Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by March 12, 2012. [Mont. Code Ann. § 13-10-201(6)(b)]

    Montana law ties the drawing of districts to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14]


  • Public input

    Montana statutes require the independent commission to hold at least one public hearing, at the state capitol, before submitting its proposed plan to the legislature; this statutory requirement, however, may be unlawful under the state constitution. [Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-108; Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765, 771 (Mont. 2004); Brown v. Mont. Districting & Apportionment Comm'n, No. ADV 2003-72, 2003 ML 1896 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003)]

    In practice, the commission holds far more hearings and public meetings. Materials from past meetings are available here. Instructions on submitting public comments, and past public comments, are here.


  • Criteria

    Like all states, Montana must comply with constitutional equal population requirements. The Montana constitution further asks that state legislative districts be as nearly equal in population "as is practicable"; the independent commission has adopted guidelines -- which it may alter, if it wishes -- further restricting districts to at most 3% deviation from the average population, with an explanation justifying each deviation. (Montana statutes purport to require districts that have at most 1% deviation from the average, unless necessary to keep political subdivisions intact or to comply with the Voting Rights Act, but these statutory requirements were declared unlawful under the state constitution.) [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Criteria; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-115; Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765, 771 (Mont. 2004); Brown v. Mont. Districting & Apportionment Comm'n, No. ADV 2003-72, 2003 ML 1896 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003)]

    Montana must also, like all states, abide by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

    The Montana constitution further requires that districts be compact and contiguous. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14] The independent commission has stated that it may gauge compactness by looking to a district's general appearance, and the degree to which it fosters "functional compactness" through "travel and transportation, communication, and geography." The commission has similarly determined that it will, in drawing legislative districts, consider the boundary lines of political subdivisions (counties, cities, towns, school districts, Indian reservations, neighborhood commissions, and others); follow geographic boundaries; and consider keeping intact communities of interest (based on "Indian reservations, urban[, suburban, or rural] interests, . . . neighborhoods, trade areas, geographic location, communication and transportation networks, media markets, social, cultural and economic interests, or occupations and lifestyles"). [Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Criteria]

    (Montana statutes purport to further restrict legislative redistricting, by defining a particular measure of compactness, limiting crossing political boundary lines, prohibiting use of political and election data, and prohibiting drawing districts for the purpose of favoring a political party or incumbent. These statutory requirements, however, have been declared unlawful limits on the commission's authority, under the state constitution.) [Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-115; Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765, 771 (Mont. 2004); Brown v. Mont. Districting & Apportionment Comm'n, No. ADV 2003-72, 2003 ML 1896 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003)]

    State legislative districts are nested; each state Senate district is composed of two adjoining state House districts. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14]


  • 2010 cycle cases
  • Willems v. Montana, No. DV13-C07 (Mont. Dist. Ct., Wheatland County, 14th Dist.), No. ADV-2013-609 (Mont. Dist. Ct., Lewis & Clark County, 1st Dist.) & No. DA 13-0820 (Mont. Sup. Ct.): a challenge in state court to the way in which a district was designated a "holdover" district for State Senate representation in a staggered election system; the challenge is based on the decision that the district will next elect a state Senator in 2016, rather than 2014.
          Trial court
              - Complaint (Mar. 14, 2013).
              - Plaintiffs' mot. for summ. judg. (Aug. 1), response (Sept. 11), reply (Sept. 27).
                   - State's cross-mot. for summ. judg. (Sept. 11), response (Sept. 27), reply (Oct. 21).
                   - Plaintiffs' surreply (Oct. 25), response (Nov. 4).
              - Opinion granting summary judgment to defendants (Dec. 6).
          Montana Supreme Court
              - Notice of appeal (Dec. 6).
              - Briefs by plaintiffs (Jan. 7, 2014), state (Feb. 7), plaintiffs' reply (Feb. 13).
              - Order (Feb. 25), opinion affirming trial court's decision (Mar. 26).
    The latest: On December 6, 2013, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants, rejecting the challenges to the designation of a "holdover" district and the process by which it was established. On February 25, 2014, the decision was affirmed on appeal. The court found no violation of public meeting requirements, and no violation in designating particular districts to be delayed in their election of new senators under the commission's plan, given the necessity for some staggered seats.

  • 2000 cycle

    In the 2000 redistricting cycle, Montana's commission adopted final state legislative plans on February 5, 2003. The plan was challenged in state court under state statutes; the plan was upheld, and the state statutes were declared unlawful under the state constitution. [Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765, 771 (Mont. 2004); Brown v. Mont. Districting & Apportionment Comm'n, No. ADV 2003-72, 2003 ML 1896 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003)]

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