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Panel drawing new MT legislative boundaries in search of nonpartisan chair

Posted: 1:09 PM, May 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-04 15:11:03-04

HELENA — The commission that will draw new Montana House and Senate district boundaries after the 2020 Census must name its fifth member and presiding officer by May 14 — and is asking volunteers from the public to apply.

“What we really need is someone who’s impartial,” said Jeff Essmann, one of two appointed Republican members of the Districting and Apportionment Commission. “Let’s ask the public. It can’t hurt to try, and see if somebody is out there.”

The panel’s four appointed members — two Republicans, two Democrats — held their first meeting Friday at the Capitol. They decided to solicit applications for the fifth member, who will chair the commission.

Applicants must submit a resume by noon next Thursday, along with a statement as to why they’d like to chair the panel. They can submit the material via email to districting@mt.gov, or mail or fax it to the Montana Legislative Services Division at P.O. Box 201706, Helena, Montana, 59620. The fax number is 406-444-3971.

The panel plans to meet May 13 in Helena to attempt to choose a chair, from the pool of applicants. If they can’t agree, the Montana Supreme Court will choose the fifth member and chair.

The commission draws new legislative district boundaries to reflect the 2020 Census. They’ll start working on the boundaries in 2021 and complete them by 2023, for the 2024 election.

The five-member panel also may end up drawing new congressional districts in Montana — if the state gets a new district, because of population growth.

In addition to Essmann, a former state legislator from Billings, the other appointed members of the commission are Republican Dan Stusek of Billings and Democrats Joe Lamson of Helena and Kendra Miller of Bozeman.