Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) In preparation for the 2024 election season, Missoula County on Tuesday adopted preliminary precinct boundaries for the region's House seats.

It also said the map could change later this summer after conducting public outreach on polling locations and other precinct-level concerns.

Bradley Seaman, the county's elections supervisor, said every 10 years after the U.S. Census is released, the state Districting and Apportionment Commission draws new House and Senate boundaries statewide.

The completion of that process kicks off a 45-day timeline for counties to adopt their smaller precinct boundaries. Seaman said the new boundaries were drawn using Census data, voter counts and ongoing Legislation defining a particular precinct's maximum size.

“It's the smallest geographical boundary used in an election,” Seaman said. “We worked to make them as even as possible, keeping urban precincts at around 2,000 voters.”

The rural precincts remain largely unchanged due to geographical constraints, Seaman added.

Missoula County had 52 precincts when the same process was undertaken in 2013. But with population growth, the new map proposes 63 precincts.

“With the population gains we've seen in Missoula County, it's really commensurate with the growth,” Seaman said. “This map will be valid as soon as it's adopted, but we do plan to have a lot of public discussions on precinct boundaries, where they lie and specifically polling locations.”

Given the state's 45-day timeline to adopt new precinct boundaries, the county on Tuesday adopted the preliminary map. But later this spring or summer, it plans to circle back with public outreach to consider any changes to the precinct boundaries.

Once the process is complete, the county will be set for the 2024 election which, for Missoula voters, will include both a U.S House and Senate race, along with state house and senate races and a presidential election.

It could also include municipal races if the Legislature votes to move races for city council and mayors to even numbered years. The city last month also adopted new ward boundaries - also in response to population changes.

“When we go through elections, one of the biggest items we see of interest is where they go to vote, not necessarily the ballot style they have,” said Seaman. “After this school election, we'll work to set up public meetings to prepare for the 2024 elections.”