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Aug 22, 2012 11:45 PM by Shannon Davis

New district lines could mean losing a district for Butte-Anaconda area

Population changes in Montana over the past ten years mean district lines need to be redrawn.

The new district lines in Southwest Montana result in the loss of one district to the Butte-Anaconda area, according to Jon Bennion, republican redistricting commissioner for the state of Montana. The new Butte-Silver Bow plan will retain five of the historic six districts, Bennion said.

"The republican colleagues had pushed heavily for reducing one of those districts so there was only five districts from that area," said Pat Smith, democratic redistricting commissioner for the State of Montana. "They were very interested in keeping Jefferson County more intact. As a consequence of doing that that's why we lost one of the districts in the Butte-Anaconda area."

Within the past 10 years Butte has not kept up with the 10% population growth in comparison with the rest of the state. To satisfy a population of nearly 10,000 within each district the new plan includes parts of Beaverhead County and Madison County into the Butte-Anaconda area, according to Bennion.

Five plans were originally created and this new plan attempts to integrate all five.

"I think you can never leave anyone completely happy, but what you do is follow the law, follow the criteria and take into account as much public input as possible," Bennion said.

Each of the five original plans incorporated some portion of Jefferson County into the Butte district. Jefferson County constituents expressed concern.

"The chairman of the redistricting commission said that Jefferson County had more public input that any place in the state and that he just simply could not ignore that," said Leonard Wortman, chair commissioner for Jefferson County.

Constituents of Jefferson County felt that if the districts lines did change and they became part of the Butte-Anaconda area, a representative from that area could not well represent them.

"They expressed their concerns in a very loud and resounding way and we were able to accommodate much of what they wanted us to do," Bennion said.

Jefferson County District currently has a population of nearly 11,000, which is 1,500 more than what the council aimed to place in each district.

"We essentially got exactly what we wanted," Wortman said.

Commissioners say this new plan should not cause the Butte-Anaconda area to lose a Senate seat. These political boundaries will take effect for the 2014 election.

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