Skip to Main Content
This site is managed by Colorado Law Professor Doug Spencer while Prof. Levitt is on leave for government service. More info.
Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

Montana uses an independent commission to draw state legislative and (if necessary) congressional districts.  The five commissioners have been appointed; the final commissioner (and chair) was selected on May 28, 2019.

In the 2010 cycle, the commission passed recommended maps on Dec. 6, 2012, and sent them to the legislature on Jan. 8, 2013, for feedback.  After considering feedback from the legislature, the commission produced a final state legislative plan on Feb. 12, 2013.

,

Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

Download Data for ,

Shapefile GeoJSON PDF

Shapefile source:

The Latest Updates

Sep 1, 2021
The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission established a schedule leading up to its November 14th deadline to submit proposed maps to the Montana Secretary of State.
Jul 9, 2021
Montana's Districting and Apportionment Commission formally adopted redistricting criteria for drawing congressional and state legislative districts after hearing public comments on the matter.
May 14, 2021
The Montana Legislature passed a bill establishing priorities for developing legislative and congressional districts.

Institution

Montana’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member independent commission, created in 1972. 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 2019, as 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; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-101102]

The state constitution provides that no commissioner may be a public official, and state law adds that no commissioner may run for legislative office for two years after serving on the commission. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-105]  State law once further specified geographic requirements, but state courts suggested that the statute might unlawfully limit discretion under the state constitution, and the statutory limitation was repealed. [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

The Montana state constitution requires the independent commission to finalize a plan for congressional districts (if necessary) within 90 days after census data are available. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-111]  Congressional candidates must file for primary elections by Mar. 14, 2022. [Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-1-107, 13-10-201(7)]

For state legislative districts, the commission must submit a plan to the legislature in the first legislative session after the census figures are available, by the tenth legislative day of that session; that session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 2, 2023.  After the plan is submitted, the legislature must return recommendations within 30 days, and the commission must produce final state legislative maps within 30 days thereafter. [Mont. Const. art. V, §§ 614; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-109, -1-110, -1-111, -2-103]   Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Mar. 11, 2024. [Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-1-107, 13-10-201(7)]

Montana law ties the drawing of districts to the Census, and would likely 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; it is not clear whether this statutory requirement is unlawful under the state constitution (that is, whether it’s unlawful as a requirement; there is no dispute about the commission’s authority to hold hearings if it wishes). [Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-108Wheat 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.  Commission meetings in the 2020 cycle are archived here; materials from meetings in past cycles are available 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.”  (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; 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 the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

The Montana constitution further requires that state legislative districts be compact and contiguous. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14]  (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. § 5-1-115Wheat 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

Montana’s independent commission passed recommended maps on Dec. 6, 2012, and sent them to the legislature on Jan. 8, 2013, for feedback.  After considering feedback from the legislature, the commission produced a final plan on Feb. 12, 2013.

The state Senate plan was challenged on the basis that it impermissibly designated a district as a “holdover,” deferring a Senate election for an additional two years; the challenge was rejected.  [Willems v. Montana, 325 P.3d 1204 (Mont. 2014)]

2000 cycle

Montana’s independent commission adopted final state legislative plans on Feb. 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)]