Congressional & Legislative
Primary Authority: Congressional and legislative maps are drawn and adopted by the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission, a 5-member, politically appointed body. The Montana Legislature has an opportunity to provide recommendations regarding the Commission’s legislative plan, which the Commission is free to adopt or reject.
- Members: The majority and minority leaders of the Montana Senate and House each appoint 1 commissioner. The initial 4 commissioners then select the 5th commissioner who serves as the presiding officer. If the initial 4 commissioners fail to select a 5th commissioner by their deadline, the Montana Supreme Court appoints the 5th commissioner by majority vote. [Mont Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-101, 5-1-102]
- Timing: The initial 4 commissioners must be appointed during the legislative session preceding each decennial census. Within 20 days of the initial 4 commissioners’ appointment, they must select the 5th commissioner. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-101, 5-1-102]
- Eligibility: Commissioners must be citizens and may not be public officials. Commissioners are prohibited from running for a legislative seat for 2 years after a redistricting plan which they helped create becomes effective. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-101, 5-1-105]
- Voting: Not specified.
- Public Input & Transparency: At least 1 public hearing must be held on a congressional plan before adopting and filing it as final. At least 1 public hearing must be held on a legislative plan prior to submitting it to the Legislature. The Commission is free to hold additional hearings as it deems necessary. [Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-108]
Mapping Timeline: The Commission must hold at least 1 public hearing on a congressional plan before adopting it as final and must file its final adopted congressional plan with the Secretary of State within 90 days of decennial census data becoming available. The Commission must hold at least 1 public hearing on a legislative plan prior to submitting it to the Legislature and it must be submitted by the 10th legislative day of the 1st regular session after the Commission’s appointment or after decennial census data is available. The Legislature must return the plan with its recommendations to the Commission within 30 days of its submission, and the Commission then has 30 days to adopt and file its final legislative plan with the Secretary of State. [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 5-1-108, 5-1-109, 5-1-110, 5-1-111]
- Congressional: As equal in population as practicable; Coincide with political subdivision boundaries to greatest extent possible; Minimize divisions of counties and cities; Contiguous (including intra-district transportation); Compact (Average length cannot be more than 3 times greater than the average width unless necessary for Voting Rights Act compliance).
- Legislative: Max 1% population deviation (unless necessary to preserve political subdivisions or comply with Voting Rights Act); Coincide with political subdivision boundaries to greatest extent possible; Minimize divisions of counties and cities; Contiguous (including intra-district transportation); Compact (Average length cannot be more than 3 times greater than the average width unless necessary for Voting Rights Act compliance); 2 House districts within each Senate district.
- PROHIBITED (Both): Districts drawn to favor political party, incumbent legislator, or member of Congress; Consideration of the following types of data: Addresses of incumbent legislators or members of Congress; Registered voters’ political affiliations; Partisan political voter lists; Previous election results (unless required by court). [Mont. Const. art. V, § 14; Mont. Code Ann. § 5-1-115]
Map Challenges: Not specified.
Ballot Measure & Referendum Processes
Types of Measures: Direct initiatives and referendums are permitted to amend statutes. Direct initiatives are permitted to amend the state constitution. Legislatively initiated ballot measures may amend both statutes and the constitution.
Single-Subject Rule: No, but there is a separate vote requirement.
Initiative Subject Restrictions: Initiatives cannot contain appropriations or special or local legislation.
Signature Requirements: Constitutional Amendments require 10% of the qualified electors of the state, including at least 10% of the qualified electors in each of at least 2/5 of the state’s legislative districts. All other initiatives and veto referendums require 5% of the qualified electors of the state, including at least 5% of the qualified electors in each of at least 1/3 of the state’s legislative districts. Qualified electors is determined by the number of votes cast for gubernatorial office in the preceding general election in Montana. 603,587 people voted for a gubernatorial candidate in the 2020 election, so 60,359 are required for constitutional amendments and 30,180 for any other initiatives and veto referendums. District specific information can be found here.
Submission Deadlines: Initiative petitions must be submitted to the county election administrators for the district where those signatures were gathered no later than 4 weeks before the final deadline for election administrators to file certified petitions with the Secretary of State (June 21, 2024). County election administrators must file certified initiative petitions with the Secretary of State no later than 5:00 p.m. of the 3rd Friday of the 4th month prior to the election in which the measure will be voted upon (July 19, 2024). Referendums must be submitted no later than 6 months after the end of the legislative session in which the act was passed.
Circulation Period: The circulation period for initiative petitions is 1 year.
Ballot Title and Summary: The ballot title and summary are written by the proponent and are identical. Expedited reviews for titles and summaries are permitted.
Other Requirements: A fiscal impact statement is required if the proposed ballot measure would affect revenue, expenditures, or the fiscal liability of the state. Circulators are required to be a resident of the state. There are no supermajority requirements. The Legislature can amend or repeal voter-approved statutes but must follow constitutional guidelines to amend or repeal a constitutional amendment by sending the Legislature’s proposal to voters by a 2/3 vote in each chamber. Referendums cannot target appropriations of money. Initiatives are permitted on general election ballots but not on primary, special, or odd-year election ballots.
[Mont. Const. art. III, §§ 4, 5; art. V, § 11; art. XIV, §§ 1 – 11; Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-27-101 – 13-27-504; Montana Ballot Issues Website]
Previous Redistricting Cycles
- Commission’s Final Plans
- Adopted = February 12, 2013
- Litigation History
- Willems v. State, 325 P.3d 1204 (Mont. 2014): Registered voters in two different counties filed a lawsuit challenging the Commission’s adopted legislative plans on the grounds its decision-making process and placement of two holdover Senators violated various voting and participation rights under the state constitution. On March 26, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of the defendants, finding that the Commission followed appropriate procedures and their final decisions were constitutionally permissible.
- Commission’s Final Plans
- Adopted = February 5, 2003
- Litigation History
- Brown v. Montana Districting and Apportionment Comm’n, No. ADV 2003-72 (Mont. Dist. Ct. July 2, 2003): After the Commission sent its proposed plans to the Legislature, the Legislature passed HB 309 which requested the Commission to reconvene and adopt a new plan, but the Commission ultimately adopted its original plans. The Secretary of State filed a complaint seeking the court to decide whether the Commission’s plan was unconstitutional and was unenforceable in light of HB 309. On July 2, 2003, a Montana District Court ruled in favor of the Commission, finding that HB 309 violated the state constitution’s redistricting procedures and ordering the Secretary of State to file the Commission’s adopted plans.
- Wheat v. Brown, 85 P.3d 765 (Mont. 2004): When the Commission adopted its legislative plans, the holdover Senators assigned in its plans differed from the Legislature’s assignments set forth in a bill passed after receiving the Legislature’s plans. Several state Senators filed suit, challenging the Commission’s plans as invalid on the grounds it did not include the holdover assignments as required by the new state law. On February 18, 2004, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Commission and upheld its plans, finding that the holdover assignments bill violated the state constitution’s redistricting procedures.
In The News
- Suit Challenges New PSC Map as Unconstitutional Gerrymander, Missoula Current (10/30/23)
- Montana Republicans Won't Litigate New Redistricting Plan, MTFP (6/16/23)
- Constitutional Amendment to Change MT Redistricting Process Moves Forward, Helena Independent Record (3/30/23)
- Chair Breaks with Democrats to Pass a Legislative Map, Completing Redistricting Process, Daily Montanan (2/11/23)
- Legislators Seek Public Comment on Redistricting Maps, NBC Montana (1/18/23)
- Senate President, GOP Legislators, Oppose Redistricting Commission's Work, Daily Montanan (1/17/23)
- Redistricting Commission Assigns Holdover Senators Ahead of Hearing Wednesday, Daily Montanan (12/19/22)
- Redistricting Commissioner Lamson Announces Resignation, Montana Free Press (10/3/22)
- Redistricting Panel Talks 'Urban-Rural Divide,' Solicits Help Drawing Legislative Maps, Ravalli Republic (8/26/22)
- Dems, GOP Release Initial Legislative Redistricting Proposals, Independent Record (8/2/22)
- Montana to Change the Way State Prisoners are Counted, Missoula Current (12/21/21)
- MT Redistricting Commission Officially Approves Final Map, NBC Montana (11/12/21)
- Redistricting Commission Chooses Final Map for Congressional Districts, NBC Montana (11/9/21)
- Commission Passes Criteria for New House Districts, KULR8 (7/21/21)
- Redistricting Commission Decides on Criteria for Congressional District Map, Great Falls Tribune (7/9/21)
- Montana Commission Torn Over Criteria for Voting Districts, AP (7/9/21)
- Rapid Population Growth Gives Montana 2nd US House Seat, AP (4/26/21)
- Population Estimate Favors Montana for Second House Seat, AP (12/23/20)
- Sheila Stearns Steps Down from Redistricting Role in Montana, KBUL (12/17/20)
- MTGOP Slams Montana Supreme Court's Redistricting Appointment; Process, MTGOP (12/16/20)
- Montana High Court Appoints New Redistricting Chairperson, AP (12/16/20)
- Montana Presses to Finish Census, Eyeing 2nd House Seat, AP (9/30/20)
- With Extended Census Deadline, Montana Looks to Improve State's Count, Bozeman Daily Chronicle (9/26/20)
- Report: Montana Could Potentially Lose Additional House Seat in Census Undercount, Great Falls Tribune (9/18/20)
- Well-Known Tribal Members Lend Voices to Census Message, Valley Journal (9/16/20)
- Webinar to Look at 2nd Congressional Seat, 2020 Census, Redistricting, Great Falls Tribune (8/14/20)
- Montana to Spend $530K on Coronavirus Relief Money on Census, AP (8/5/20)
- "Reverse this Reckless Decision": Montanans Push Back on Census Deadline, Independent Record (8/4/20)
- Census Faces Uphill Battle in Tribal Communities, Daily Inter Lake (6/16/20)
- Lagging Rural Census Response Could Cost Montana Second U.S. House Seat, Montana Free Press (6/10/20)