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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Court to decide final member of redistricting commission

Thursday, May 16, 2019  
Posted by: Joe Menden
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The Montana Supreme Court will choose the fifth and final member of the 2020 election redistricting commission after the four current members failed to come to an agreement amid partisan disagreement.

The 2020 redistricting commission will reshape election districts for the next 10 years for both state legislative races and, depending on the outcome of the 2020 census, Montana’s second U.S. House seat. Two Democrats and two Republicans in charge of redrawing Montana’s political map failed Monday to agree on the fifth and final member of their group.

Over the last 50 years of redistricting cycles the partisan commission members have been unable to agree on who should lead them as chairperson, who will cast the deciding vote on how Montana's political boundaries are drawn.

Monday’s meeting of the 2020 commissioners led to the same deadlock result following public input about candidates.

Montana Public Radio reports that Republican commissioner Jeff Essmann, a Billings lawyer, called an to end the meeting after commissioners took turns offering suggestions and each of their nominations stalled on a 2-2 party line vote.

"There’s no sense continuing a charade that, you know, we’re gonna to try to reach a consensus," Essmann said.

The Montana Constitution requires a majority of the state Supreme Court to now pick the final member. No timeline has been set for the court to announce its selection.