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Short On Time, Maine Redistricting Panel Seeks Consensus On New Congressional, Legislative Maps

maine congressional districts.PNG
Maine Department of Secretary of State
Debate over the redrawing of Maine's two congressional districts has centered on Augusta and Waterville in Kennebec County, which are now in the 1st district as part of the 2011 map (seen here). But at least one could end up in the 2nd district.

The bipartisan commission redrawing Maine's legislative and congressional districts for the next 10 years is facing a tight deadline to complete its work, as Democrats and Republicans are still seeking a consensus.

At a public hearing Monday, several residents from the Hancock County town of Penobscot criticized the Republican plan that would put them in a different state Senate district than the rest of their neighbors on the Blue Hill peninsula.

Others panned the proposed boundary lines of both parties' congressional maps.

David Emery, who is working with Republican members of the commission, says there are more than 1,100 different congressional map combinations that could be drawn in Kennebec County alone.

"Most of them are unusable because they're far flung, not contiguous, or one thing or another," he said. "So when you come down to the challenge you've got an identified number of a couple dozen or so that actually work. And those are the ones we choose from. None of them are pretty."

Both sides are focusing on Kennebec County, where Democrats have proposed cramming Augusta and Waterville and several towns into the 2nd District.

Republicans support moving Augusta but not Waterville, where the number of registered Democratic voters significantly outnumbers Republicans.

Overall, both sides are trying to move about 23,000 residents from the 1st District into the 2nd to make them proportional.

They'll have to reach an agreement by next Monday, Sept. 27, that can win a supermajority vote in Legislature, or the process could be handed over to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The process will inevitably make the 2nd District more Democratic, and therefore potentially affect future congressional races. Presidential contests could also be affected because Maine split its four electoral votes, awarding the statewide winner two votes and one for the winner of each congressional district.

The commission will meet again Wednesday to discuss state house district proposals that were released Monday afternoon, while continuing to seek consensus on congressional and state senate districts.

The Legislature will have 10 days to ratify the maps from Sept. 27, otherwise the law court will draw the boundaries.