Why this rush to redistrict? That’s my take on this latest debate regarding the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC).
First, a little background. Didn’t we just do a redistricting in Montana, you might ask. Yeah, but that was for the new congressional districts. Montana goes from one member of the United States House of Representatives to two members. So once the State District and Allocation Commission got the latest census data, it began drawing the lines for the two new congressional districts.
This commission is made up of two Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees. Democrats and Republicans are supposed to decide on a chair for the 5th vote, but it always ends in a stalemate, so what ends up happening is that the liberal majority on the Montana Supreme Court picks the chair. It’s like that.
Redistricting for the PSC is a whole different story. The redistricting task for the Montana Public Service Commission rests solely with the Montana Legislative Assembly. Here is the challenge: liberal justices try to interfere with the process and force a rushed recut process. This is the best-case scenario, the most likely scenario is far worse – liberal justices will attempt to make redistricting decisions unilaterally and ignore the Montana Constitution.
Earlier this week we had a great conversation on this topic. This led to a fiery back-and-forth between some of the callers and guests. Former state senator Ed Butcher (R-Winifred) joined me on the radio to denounce the interference of judges in the redistricting process. He also took a swipe at Joe Dooling for being too closely aligned with more moderate Republicans.
Helena’s Joe Dooling, who is exploring a race for the PSC’s Northwest Montana seat as a Republican, then called and fired back at Butcher. He also called out Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell) for not doing redistricting work in previous legislative sessions.
Skees then followed up afterwards and made a good point: we didn’t redistrict the PSC in the last legislative session because we didn’t yet have the latest 2020 census data available. .
It makes sense to me. We did not yet have the county census data available, which you would need to properly design new districts. That’s why they waited until Autumn to set up the quarters of the US House.
So now the question is, should we call a special session and get the PSC redistricting done before the 2022 elections, or just wait for the next scheduled regular session after the census? What we cannot have; however, it is a group of liberal federal judges who decide what the maps will look like, especially when that task falls, constitutionally, to our state legislature.