An Analysis Of Voting Trends In Lewis And Clark County From 1948 To 1968
Lewis and, Clark County has, throughout the period of its existence, been one of Montana’s most unique and important political districts. Since 1965, Lewis and Clark County has also been known as Montana’s twenty-first political district. This new designation was adopted after the Montana legislature was redistricted and reapportioned in order to conform with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ’’one man, one vote** ruling on re- anportionment. Conseouently, the names Lewis and Clark County and District 21 will be used interchangeably in this thesis.
Although the entire political history of District 21 is colorful and important in understanding current political trends, this thesis will concentrate primarily on an analysis of the last twenty years. It has been limited to the time between 1948 and 1968 for three significant reasons: 1. By focusing our attention only on the last two decades, we will be able to gain a better perspective of present political trends, especially of the 1968 general election results . 2. During the last sixteen years, there have been three different, consecutive Republican governors and administrations in Montana. By going back to 1948, we will be able to better observe the effect the last Democratic administration, and the three subsequent Republican administrations, have had on local politics in this county. 3. The unlikelihood of major changes occurring over a shorter time period in the political make-up of the county also figured into our limiting this analysis to the past twenty years.
Lewis and Clark County is not unique because it is unpredictable. As a former state Democratic Central Committee executive secretary stated: "It’s often the most predictable county in Montana, although at times it’s a little difficult to understand.The county’s singular political consciousness lies then, not with unusual tendencies, but rather in political characteristics which can be found only in this district. Primary and most important of these political traits is the location of the state capitol in Helena, The location of Montana's statehouse at Helena makes Lewis and Clark County the ideal district in which a study can be made to determine the possible Impact state political trends can have on local politics. A close personal friend, with a good insight into the operations of state government, remarked: "The biggest business in Helena revolves around state politics, and somehow and sometime nearly everyone here becomes involved with it." The influence of the state government on local politics is not the only characteristic which has an impact on the voting trends in this district; however, since this influence is the county’s most dominant characteristic, it will be given special emphasis in this thesis.
This analysis of the political trends of District 21 is based upon examination of voting results between 1948 and 1968, and through personal interviews with people closely connected, with the political status of the county, as well as other, less important factors. The personal interview approach was used to gather information instead of a survey of all voters because if was felt that the views of those most closely connected with the political scene would provide a better insight into factors which contribute to the political environment of this county. It. was also felt that, a survey approach affecting all voters might infringe upon the electors’ sacred right of not having to express or explain the manner in which they marked, their ballots.