A commission’s last-minute reassignment of two state senators to new central Montana districts was a political move to allow another state senator from Conrad to run for re-election in 2014, and should be thrown out, a lawyer for citizens in one of the districts argued Friday. Matthew Monforton, a Bozeman attorney, said the state Districting and Apportionment Commission members made the decision in closed-door meetings this February, without giving citizens in the affected districts any advance notice to comment. “This is a case where governmental power was used not for the benefit of the public, but rather to serve the interest of one man: (state Sen.) Llew Jones,” Monforton told a district judge in Helena. “Montana Senate seats are not the personal property of Llew Jones or any other citizen.” But an attorney for the state said the five-member panel violated no laws when it decided Feb. 12 to change districts assigned to a pair of senators, thus freeing up a district where Jones, a Conrad Republican, could run for re-election in 2014.
State Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke said the full commission always met in public and had received several letters asking it to enable Jones to run for re-election in his current district in 2014. “The commission was not trying to respond to benefit one person here; they were trying to respond to public comment,” VanDyke said. “So, it really is not about trying to benefit one person.”
VanDyke and Monforton argued over a lawsuit filed this year by two dozen residents of new Senate District 15, which includes Lewistown, Harlowton, White Sulphur Springs and Winnett.
District Judge Mike Menahan of Helena said he’d try to rule quickly on the case, which will affect new Senate districts that take effect for the 2014 elections.
Full Article: Judge hears arguments in redistricting lawsuit.