Gerrymandering, or the art of drawing districts to disfavor your opponent’s party, is in the eye of the beholder. Just recently, we saw Montana’s Districting and Apportionment Commission reveal their own personal versions of what Montanans legislative districts should look like. The Republican Commissioners attempted to follow the four mandatory requirements imposed by the law and our Constitution: equality of population, physical contiguity, compliance with the Voting Rights Act by the creation of minority-majority districts, and compactness. No map is perfect, but there is no doubt they offered common sense alternatives to the maps drawn by a Democrat-dominated Commission in 2004 and 2014.
Now, allies of the Democrat Commission members want you to ignore what you can see and argue that the law requires political balance or equity in the outcome-even if that requires ignoring the legal requirements of the Montana Constitution. Their goal is to draw convoluted districts that crack rural and suburban communities of interest in large population Montana counties where their voters are clustered in order to reach their political goal that has no basis in law-electing 43 Democrats to the Montana House, which is the average of the last decade’s statewide vote in Montana.
I encourage you to go to the Districting Commission website to see the lengths Democrats went to gerrymander their districts to achieve their desired political outcome with their votes clustered in just a few cities, towns, and reservations. The Democrat gerrymandering practice of “cracking and packing” communities of Republican voters in rural, urban and suburban counties by creating non-compact districts is nothing new. But let’s take a deeper look at a few Democrat-proposed house districts.
The Know It When You See It (KIWYSI) scale developed by Harvard Scholars measures the compactness of districts drawn and in this case, reveals that Democrat gerrymandering is most prevalent in the five urban counties. While Republican proposals rate 67.5 and 65.2 for compactness, Democrat proposals ranked considerably less compact at 40.6 and 44.4. Here are a few specific examples. In Missoula County, a district drawn by Democrats was rated a 5 out of 100 on the KIWYSI scale.
In Gallatin County, Bozeman voters were artfully carved up into nine districts to unseat Gallatin County Republicans and overwhelm suburban and rural Republican voters. Two of these districts rated a 1 out of 100. Democrat Commission members went as far as placing Big Sky and Red Lodge in the same district, but if you jump in the car, you would either have to leave Montana twice or travel by highway through 12 other House Districts to get to your destination. Darby is in with Deer Lodge and Drummond, with only wilderness in the way. You literally can’t get there from here, as the old joke goes.
You can take a look for yourself and verify this by clicking on the plus sign next to each map and checking the compactness ratings under the advanced tab on Dave’s Redistricting. You can read about its development at and feel good to know that what your eyes tells you has now been validated by Harvard scholars.
It is time to hear from the people of Montana on what they think of these proposals so that the Commission can draw a compliant and legal map that may not satisfy all partisans, but will pass the smell test. The Commission has a legal duty to draw compact maps and maps submitted by Democrat Commission members split communities of interest and are simply not compact. The Commission is having a total of nine hearings around the state and virtually starting on August 25th. They need to hear from you now to stop yet another attempt at Democrat gerrymandering.
Terry Nelson, Chair
Montana Republican Party