DOJ: News Release

AG: District Change Does Not Automatically Disqualify Candidates

HELENA – In a formal opinion released Monday, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that, as long as a county commission candidate meets a two-year residency requirement, he or she may run for county commission, even if reapportionment has altered the boundaries of the candidate’s commission district.

State law requires that after each federal census, each county be divided into three commissioner districts. Those districts must be as “compact and equal” in population and area as possible. Also under state law, a candidate may not be elected to a county commission unless “the person has resided in the county and the district for at least two years preceding the general election.” The law does not, however, address the situation of a candidate who seeks election or reelection after a change in district due to reapportionment.

The opinion clarifies that as long as the candidate has resided at the same address for at least two years, he or she satisfies the residency requirement. “To hold otherwise,” the opinion said, “would lead to the situation of a person being ineligible to be a candidate in any commissioner district for up to two years following the redistricting, despite the fact that the person may have resided at the same address for many years.”

Cascade County Attorney Brant S. Light requested the opinion.

An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless a court overturns it or the Legislature modifies the laws involved.

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