Senate backs new political voting districts for Public Service Commission

One year after a federal court ruled the political districts of Montana’s utility commission were unconstitutional, the state Senate has proposed a controversial redraw that saps the voting power of Montana’s largest cities by breaking them up.

Lawmakers facing a pass-or-perish Friday deadline for non-revenue bills, approved new political districts for the Public Service Commission. The districts approved would, for the first time in at least 20 years, split the state’s largest cities into two districts.

That split sparked objections on the Senate floor about breaking up “communities of interest,” meaning communities with common policy concerns. Splitting up communities is largely regarded as a gerrymandering tool.

“I want to encourage all my colleagues to look at this map and look at how it splits communities,” said Janet Ellis. “…I want you to consider before you vote on this bill today, if this is the best way to draw five districts, I don’t believe this map is the best choice for our state.”

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The political districts of the PSC, the state’s regulator of monopolies, are the only political districts drawn by the Legislature.

The job of drawing legislative and congressional districts belongs

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