Voters received new Voter Confirmation Cards in the mail this past week.Check your card to see what precinct you are in and where your polling place is located.
For those voters who are now moved to either Valier or Brady as their polling place location, please remember you have the option of voting by absentee ballot prior to election day, either at your home or at the courthouse.
Every 10 years, after the federal census, Montana law directs that the entire state be divided into 100 state House districts. The population of the state is divided by 100 in order that each district will be as equally populated as possible. The target population number for each House district was 9,894, resulting in a not so easy task for the six members of the commission. Once the commission has drawn the House and Senate district boundaries, most of which cross at least two counties, the legislature adopts the plan for the entire state. Two House districts are needed to create one Senate District.
For counties, this is when the real work begins. Pondera County Commissioners, with the assistance of the County Election Administrator, must conform the county’s voting precincts to the House and Senate Districts approved by the legislature.
The final step to approval comes from the District Court Judge.District Court Judge Robert Olson approved Pondera County’s precinct changes on Dec. 2, 2013. For the past 10 years, Pondera County had two House Districts making this a pretty easy task.However, in the 2013 redistricting map, Pondera County, being a relatively long and skinny county and sparsely populated, was incorporated with other counties resulting in three House Districts.
House District 15 is the far western part of the county on the Blackfeet Reservation. This part of the County is combined with areas of Glacier, Flathead, and Lake Counties. House District 15 is combined with House District 16 in Glacier County to create Senate District 8.
The commission drew an inverted “vee” boundary in Pondera County, with its southern boundary being the City limits of Conrad, and combined this portion of Pondera County with all of Toole and part of Glacier Counties.
The commission reached its goal of approximately 9,894 people for House District 18. The remaining population of Pondera County, including the Town of Valier, was needed to create House District 17, which is combined with Teton and part of Lewis and Clark Counties to achieve the target population.House Districts 17 and 18 are combined to create Senate District 9. School District lines were not affected by these changes.
County Commissioners Joe Christiaens, Sandi Broesder, and Janice Hoppes, with Clerk and Recorder Kody Farkell, looked at several factors in deciding how to work with the House Districts and voting precincts. Voting precinct 28, known as “Rural Conrad”, was impacted by the creation of House District 18.
The voters not in House District 18 needed to be either allocated to adjoining precincts in House District 17, or at least one new precinct formed. Forming a new precinct is costly as it creates additional expenses for ballot stock and printing, as well as AutoMark and ballot counter programming. An acceptable Americans with Disabilities Act compliant polling place would be needed as well, as the Pondera Center does not have room for a fourth precinct. In addition, additional polling place judges would be needed.
The alternative to creating an additional precinct was to combine the voters into adjoining precincts, Precinct 35 (Rural Valier) and Precinct 19 (Brady).The polling places in Valier and Brady could easily accommodate additional voter traffic without additional costs, but the voters surrounding the City of Conrad would have more travel to their new polling place in either Valier or Brady. After considering all the impacts, it was decided to combine the voters with the adjoining precincts.
The elections affected by this change are the primary and general elections in even-numbered years and 2014 elections are the first in the new polling places and precincts. Again, School District elections will not be affected by these changes.