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Maine Redistricting Panel Reaches Deal On New Legislative And Congressional Maps

Maine State House
Robert F. Bukaty
The Maine State House is seen Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Augusta, Maine.

The bipartisan commission redrawing legislative and congressional districts for the next 10 years reached agreement Monday on new maps that the Legislature will ratify later this week.

The series of votes Monday and last week came as the reapportionment panel worked under a tight deadline to negotiate maps that will determine electoral battlegrounds until after the next U.S. Census.

Determining boundaries for 35 state Senate districts proved to be the trickiest, as Democrats and Republicans on the commission did not reach a consensus until its last day of work.

Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson, of Allagash, said the process worked even though negotiations were contentious at times.

"I'm not sitting here over the moon or anything like that because, you know, you get some things and some you don't," he said. "But it was a good process."

Details of the Senate maps were not immediately available Monday, but commission members indicated that the toughest negotiations centered on districts in York County and in the districts around Portland.

Changes were also made in the Penobscot County region near Bangor.

Both parties were trying to adjust district boundaries after latest U.S. Census data showed that most of the state's population growth occurred in the southern part of the state.

The process is designed to make sure districts are nearly equal in population, but the two sides hired consultants to try to develop maps that would give them an electoral advantage for the next decade.

Republican Sen. Rick Bennett, of Oxford, said the overall result is likely more competitive seats in a Senate that has flipped from one party to the other four times in the past six elections.

"Seats that aren't just Democrat or Republican," he said. "There are some parts of the state that we know that are more one way or the other, but there's a lot of ground here. The commission agreed last week on new congressional district maps, which mostly carve up Kennebec County, which is already divided between Maine's two districts."

In moving roughly 23,000 Mainers from the 1st to the 2nd district, the commission moved a total of 13 towns from the 1st to the 2nd, or vice versa.

Among them is the state capital of Augusta, which will move to the 2nd District, along with Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop.

Democrats had originally hoped to move Democratic-leaning Waterville into the 2nd District, but Republicans declared such a move a non-starter in negotiations.

The resulting congressional map will likely make the 2nd District marginally more Democratic, a move unlikely to make a huge difference except in very close elections.

The Legislature will convene Wednesday to ratify the maps.