Thursday, August 05, 2021

Idea to fairly and evenly divide Montana

by Bob Lopp
| July 17, 2021 12:00 AM

It is fantastic that our home state will again be able to send a second congressman to Washington, D.C. It is obviously helpful to have more Montanans fighting for our state and hopefully our legislators will continue the long tradition of our delegation working together on behalf of our state whenever possible.

One thing we know is that at a minimum, they all understand what the words “Butte, America” mean, why Cat/Griz matters and most importantly, the holy nature of the coronation of the King and Queen of the Whitefish Winter Carnival. If they ever struggle to put partisanship aside, hopefully a beer and a discussion of stream access will remind them of our (and hopefully, their) important shared values.

When the current redistricting process was instituted after the 1972 Constitutional Convention, the main concern was to have fair (or as fair as possible) redistricting, that would minimize partisanship. The solution that was implemented was to have the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate each select one commissioner and then for those four commissioners to jointly select a fifth commissioner to serve as chair. If they found themselves unable to agree on a chair within twenty days, the Montana Supreme Court selects the fifth commissioner/chair.

Given this background, and our newly minted need to create a second congressional district, I would like to point out that there is no such thing as a nonpartisan, let alone a nonpartisan commission. The court appointed chair will always lean one way or the other because they are human. So instead, let’s create a mechanism that eliminates this inherent bias.

I propose creating four maps that divide the state evenly in population. North to south, from Canada to the Wyoming/Idaho border — wherever halfway would happen to fall. East to west, from North or South Dakota to Idaho, again wherever the population would be evenly divided. And third and fourth options that bisect the state diagonally (NE/SW, NW/SE). Then, (and here’s the fun part), let’s have an NBA like lottery every 10 years that draws balls representing each map in a big made-for-TV and internet broadcast with the winning map setting the district boundaries.

In this model, neither political side is held hostage by virtue of who controls the Supreme Court, by definition it will fairly and evenly divide the population of the state and meet the contiguous requirement, and it virtually eliminates the possibility of majority bullying.

Once again, it would demonstrate our fair minded common-sense commitment to work with each other and it would give us another special Montana innovation to unite us over a beer!

— Bob Lopp, Kalispell