Eastern Montana to lose state representation in legislative district redrawing

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 4:57 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 11:28 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - Montana’s new legislative districts have been approved by the state’s Districting and Apportionment Commission. The new lines bring some changes to those in our viewing area.

Montana’s population is growing westward, meaning the eastern-most part of the state is going to end up losing representation. Currently, there are four senate districts covering this area. These new changes will bring it down to three.

Starting with the northeast, people in Daniels, Sheridan and Roosevelt Counties outside the Fort Peck Indian Reservation will no longer share a district with towns farther west. They will instead vote with the northern half of Richland County. This includes Sidney, Fairview, Culbertson and towns to the north like Scobey and Plentywood. Their two-house districts will be split between Roosevelt and Richland counties, but Bainville and Culbertson will move to the southern house district.

Southern Richland, Dawson, Wibaux and several other counties will all become just one senate district instead of two. One house district will cover Dawson and Richland counties, while another covers the rest.

This has major impacts for the 2024 election. Representative Brandon Ler, R-Savage, currently covers the house district for all of Richland County. With him living in southern Richland County, he will end up in a different house district, currently held by Rep Bob Phalen, R-Lindsay.

“Richland County has had its own district for 10 years and Richland County gained population, so I knew that some of my district was going to have to go somewhere else. I knew I was going to lose some of that I just didn’t know where it was going to come from,” said Ler.

Another example is Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux. His district currently covers all of Wibaux, Dawson and Richland Counties. That district will combine with another to the west, currently held by Sen. Kenneth Bogner, R-Miles City.

“It’s just that we are losing more representation over here all the time. East of Billings, we don’t have much representation up here,” said Hinebauch.

You won’t see much change for those inside the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, but the line between the area’s two-house districts was cut horizontally instead of vertically to even the population between the two regions.

This map is being reviewed by the Montana Secretary of State. You can view it here.

It’s expected to go into effect starting next year.