On March 8th (just a week before the candidate filing deadline), a panel of federal judges drew new boundaries for Montana’s Public Service Commission (PSC) districts. The districts were redrawn as part of a ruling in response to a lawsuit that argued the old districts violated the “one person, one vote” principle of the U.S. Constitution due to population shifts that have occurred in our state since the districts were drawn in 2003.
After reviewing a handful of proposed maps, the court ultimately selected the map offered by MT Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen (with one tweak to avoid splitting the Blackfeet Indian Reservation). The new districts are largely similar to the old districts, but swap a handful of counties between districts, namely Musselshell, Deer Lodge, Glacier, and Pondera.
The new boundaries may be changed by the 2023 Montana State Legislature, as Public Service Commission districts are the only districts that the legislature is legally allowed to draw. Some Republican legislators had pushed for a special legislative session to draw a new map before the court took action, but were unable to get enough support to do so.
This year, PSC Districts 1 and 5 are up for election. District 1 includes northcentral and northeastern Montana. District 5 extends from Lewis & Clark County up through the Flathead. While these positions don’t always get as much attention as other elected offices in the state, the decisions made by the PSC have a profound impact on the type of energy sources that power Montana homes and businesses, and on the costs that energy customers pay. Ensuring that elections for these offices are fair and constitutional is vital to the work of Northern Plains members.