Big Sky Connection  Montana's independent redistricting commission is drawing new voting maps for the state Legislature. Native American communities have priorities as this process gets under way. Comments from Ta'jin (tah-HEEN) Perez, deputy director, Western Native Voice.

 

Click on the image above for the audio.  A public meeting on redistricting is scheduled for Aug. 25 at Salish Kootenai College. (Salish Kootenai College/U.S. Department of Education)

Eric Tegethoff

August 1, 2022

With new voting maps for Montana's Legislature to be revealed soon, Native American communities are being encouraged to watch the process closely.

Billings-based Western Native Voice wants the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission to respect tribal sovereignty in the process. One of the commission's goals is to keep communities of interest, such as tribes, intact.

Ta'jin Perez, deputy director of Western Native Voice, said keeping communities whole is important, as is ensuring representation in the Legislature.

"Candidates of choice are from your community and that these communities should be able to have the opportunity to elect someone that shares their values and shares who they are and the unique history and the unique cultures of these tribal areas," Perez outlined.

The commission has scheduled nine public meetings in August and September, so Montanans can comment on the maps, including three meetings online: Aug. 30 for the western region, Sep. 9 for the central region, and Sep. 19 for the eastern region.

Perez pointed out Montana has an independent redistricting commission and contended it has done a good job of ensuring the Legislature is proportionally representative of the population of Native Americans in the state. He noted the independent setup of the commission has many upsides, including it is not beholden to the governor or lawmakers.

"An entire Legislature, their voice is intended to be just as loud as that of the public because of this independent commission that we have," Perez explained. "Other states don't enjoy this kind of thing."

Perez added voters should be engaged in the process.

"Representation that reflects communities as they are is important, and the only way that a body like the redistricting commission can do that is through public comment," Perez concluded.

The deadline for the redistricting plan is the 10th day of the 2023 legislative session.