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Havreites speak out on redrawing of political maps

 

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Several Havre-area residents were among people making comments Thursday night to the commission tasked with adjusting the legislative districts in Montana, including some rather pointed comments about the last redistricting done to reflect the 2000 Census. "Senate District 16 is an abomination," said Richard Cronk, chair of the Blaine County Republican Central Committee. The meeting of the Districting and Apportionment Commission in Helena included Havre and Great Falls, which were linked via a videoconferencing system. The speakers from Havre — all Republicans — made similar comments to the commission on what criteria should be used to draw the legislative districts to reflect changes in the state population based on the 2010 Census. All of the criteria suggested already are in the state constitution or reflect the direction of the 2004 Legislature. The comments essentially asked the commission to draw the new boundaries following the rules in place. "I would hope you can apportion this in a nonpartisan way," Cronk said. He and several others from the Great Falls and Helena parts of the meetings talked about districts created by the 2004 redistricting that stretch over several counties. Senate District 16 stretches from Chouteau County through Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley and Roosevelt counties, and includes at least parts of the Rocky Boy's, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian reservations. Andrew Brekke, chair of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, agreed with Cronk that the last redistricting split communities of interest, even dividing the communities of Havre and Chinook. Brekke said he ran for the legislature in 2002 in a district that included Blaine, Hill, Phillips and Chouteau counties. After redistricting he ran again in 2004 in a two-county district with the towns split. "It just seems that neighbors are pitted against neighbors, not necessarily on purpose but … neighbors are now represented by different people sometimes by hundreds and hundreds of miles," he said. "We need to make These as concise and intact as we can and try to respect traditional neighborhoods." Hill County Chief Deputy At torney Kris Hansen, a Republican candidate in the race for House District 33, said the commission should strive to follow the Legislature's direction to stay within a plus-orminus deviation of 1 percent or less in the size of the districts, a stricter cri teria than the Montana Constitution's criteria of plus-or-minus 5 percent from the ideal size. "If you cant get exactly to 1 percent plus-or-minus get as close as you can to that," she said. "To have a 5 percent deviation in this era of fabulous computer programs and mathematical formulas … it seems like it would be reasonable to get closer to the plus-or-minus 1 percent." Rep. Wendy Warburton, who is running for re-election to her seat in House District 34, said she has heard from many of her constituents in the last few years that communities of interest were split. The redistricting split Havre and Chinook in half, with her district including the eastern half of Havre along with the northern half of Blaine County and part of Chinook. That mixes people in Havre with rural farmers and ranchers in Hill and Blaine counties and puts people with similar backgrounds and interests north and south of U.S. Highway 2 in different districts. It makes more sense that those people with similar interests, such as the city of Havre or the people north and south of the highways, be in the same district, she said. "I hope that you guys will really look at communities of interest," Warburton said. Terry Schend, the last speaker from Havre, reiterated the criteria most speakers had addressed before him, population equality in the different districts, compactness and avoiding splitting communities of interest. "I hope in your wisdom as a committee that you will put politics aside and do what's right for the citizens of Montana, one person one vote," he said. "I think that's a very important consideration."

 
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