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Districting and Apportionment Comm. decides on Senate Districts

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The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission held a meeting today to begin pairing 100 tentatively adopted State House Districts into 50 Senate Districts.

Republican appointed Commissioner Jon Bennion of the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission says it can be difficult to integrate opposing views when combining House Districts into Senate Districts.

Bennion says, "It's a pretty grueling process.  You know there's a lot of areas of disagreement.  Not to be a surprise.  You know, Republicans and Democrats have different ideas."

Under Montana law, the commission has authority to draw boundaries of congressional and legislative districts every 10 years.  The commission decides on the districts, using population data from the last census, to roughly include the same amount of residents.  Bennion says disagreements between commissioners revolve around the interpretations.

Bennion says, "They lie in areas where you're trying to define what a community is.  And how you match up 2 House Districts to really make a community into a Senate District.  And not all of them are so clear cut."

Democratic Commissioner Pat Smith says there are many factors to consider when redistricting, including geography, political subdivisions, and communities of interest.  He says during this redistricting session, there has been more public participation than usual.

Smith says, "Tremendous amount of public hearings and a tremendous amount of public involvement. This is probably the most engaged amount of public involvement we've seen.  So that's much appreciated with the level of involvement and attention from Montanans."

Smith says redistricting is a delicate process.  During the meeting, he often used the term ripple effect to describe the magnitude of possible changes.

Smith says, "It's a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle and so as you're pairing things there if you pair a couple House Districts together and a couple here, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the jigsaw."

The next meeting of the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission will be a public hearing on December 19th at the Capitol.


Story by Charlie Misra, Beartooth NBC.
Copyright ©2012 Beartooth Communications Company. All Rights Reserved.

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Capitol, Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission, Jon Bennion, State House districts, Pat Smith

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