Second Republican Map Proposal: CP 12

The second proposal from Republican commissioners — CP 12 — would keep Gallatin whole, while cutting through Pondera County. This proposal would put Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell in a western district, and place Helena in an eastern district. 

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After pushing back the decision twice, the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission chose the final tentative congressional map on Thursday.

That map, Congressional Proposal 12, puts Gallatin, Missoula and Flathead Counties in a proposed western district, while Lewis and Clark County moved to a proposed eastern district. Pondera County is the only county split by the congressional line.

It was chosen by Commission Chair Maylinn Smith as the final congressional map. A three to two vote, with a tiebreaker coming from Smith, pushed the Republican map into the final stage of the redistricting process.

Smith said CP 12 met the goals and criteria decided by the commission in July, and that it would provide a competitive district in the west. She also pointed to the map keeping both the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet reservations together in a proposed western district as a reason for her decision.

Competitiveness could rely on who is running for office in the proposed western district.

“To me, with the right person there, you can have a competitive district,” Smith said.

That map was released days before the commission’s Oct. 30 meeting and was given additional time for public comment. The Democratic map, CP 11, was slightly altered in the waning hours of the meeting.

Montana gained an additional seat in Congress because of a growth in population over the last 10 years, pushing the number of residents over 1 million. The independent commission was put to the task of drawing one line to divide the state into two congressional districts for the first time since 1980.

FiveThirtyEight, a political analysis website, indicated that all four maps up for consideration created two districts that leaned Republican. The tentative final map has a district with a rating of +10 for Republicans.

Now that a tentative final map has been chosen, there will be another work session on Nov. 9 for final tweaking and fine tuning. The deadline to turn in a map to the Montana Secretary of State’s Office is Nov. 14.

Prior to the decision were hours of public testimony, which ranged from the commission’s legal obligation to follow the Montana Constitution to whether fairness was valid as a consideration in the redistricting process.

Some testifying in person brought props, like stacks of printed-off comments, petitions with hundreds of signatures against CP 12, or copies of the Montana and U.S. constitutions.

Tara Veazey produced a cardboard box filled with every comment made in support of the four semifinalists.

“That stack there represents over 1,200 comments in support of CP 11,” Veazey said, while pointing to a 1-foot-tall stack of comments.

Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, spoke in support for CP 11. He said that CP 12 created two noncompetitive districts, and that there was no consensus for the Republican map.

He said that competition led to better representatives, and pointed to the importance of talking to constituents on both sides of the aisle and understanding their concerns and needs.

“It’s that understanding that comes from that work that is the raw material that is used for solutions for all Montanans,” Flowers said.

While a majority of people supported CP 11, others supported CP 12, with some claiming that the Democratic map was illegal.

Former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot spoke about a joint letter that he and former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus wrote together. He said that the most “transcendent” aspect of a congressional map would be equal population distribution on either side of the line.

“What we learned … was that numbers, population numbers in districts, was a transcendent objective that had to be accomplished,” Racicot said.

He said that CP 12 was the most “elegant” proposal in achieving an equal population. That map has a population deviation of one person.

Bozeman resident Eileen Guthrie said she hoped that the commission’s highest priority was to follow the Constitution. Originally, she supported CP 1, one of the nine maps that was shelved in October. That map divided Gallatin County.

“I have been one of those underrepresented voters. I write letters to congressmen and sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t,” Guthrie said. “If you’re going to have to divide somewhere, Gallatin County is OK.”

One of the common throughlines for those commenting in favor of CP 12, especially from Republican state senators and representatives, was that the Republican map was favorable because it kept the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet reservations together in a proposed western district.

Some were unaware that some tribes and Native American advocacy groups like Western Native Voice, opposed CP 12.

Keaton Sunchild, political director for Western Native Voice, said that his organization strongly supported CP 11, and that the Republican map would continue to silence the voices of Native voters in the state.

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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