Cross posted at Dirigo Blue
Earlier this spring, a complaint was filed in Federal Court demanding that Maine reapportion its two congressional districts in time for the 2012 election, not wait until 2013 to do so, two years after the census as has been the case since 1983. The US District Court in Maine found that by waiting, Maine was violating the principle of "one man, one vote," and order that the Legislature provide it with a map this fall.
The Reapportionment Commission was created and tasked to present a plan to the Legislature by 31 August 2011. The Commission is equally represented by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, with an independent chair for the 15th member.
The latest census shows that Maine's 1st District has 8,669 more people in it than the 2nd District. In order to achieve "one man, one vote," 4,334 people will have to be moved from the 1st to the 2nd Districts, with some caveats: the districts must be compact and contiguous; political subdivisions (counties, cities, and towns) should not be divided as much as is practicable; as few persons should be moved from one district to another as is practicable; and communities of interest should not be separated from each other.
The optimum deviation between the two congressional districts in Maine is one person.
Maine's two congressmen are Democrats: Rep. Chellie Pingree represents the 1st District (the southern part of the state), and Rep. Mike Michaud the 2nd District.
Today the Democrats and Republicans presented their plans.
It is worth noting the existing layout of the two districts in Maine, which have been relatively unchanged since Maine lost a congressional seat in 1961 (left) and 2003 (right):
As Maine's population has shifted away from the rural areas of the north and east to the larger metropolitan area around Portland, the 1st District (in blue) has contracted to reflect that migration.
The plan proposed by the Maine Democrats moves just one town from the 1st to the 2nd District. Vassalboro, which is on the border of the two districts, has a population of 4,340, and shifting it would leave a deviation from the 11 people. It satisfies all the other criteria that courts look at, although is not at the optimum deviation.
Maine's 2nd District, already the largest east of the Mississippi at 27,326 square miles (nearly 80% of the state), would grow in size by 34 square miles. Travel distances within the district would remain the same.
The plan proposed by the Maine Republicans would move 139 cities and towns to reach their deviation of one. This constitutes all or part of seven of Maine's 16 counties (Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Kennebec, and part of Franklin), shifting 360,000 people from one district to another - that is 23% of Maine's population. And it divides communities of interest.
While it does achieve the ideal deviation of one person, it does so at the expense of all the other criteria that the Court will use to examine the proposed plans.
It also shifts the town where Rep. Pingree lives to the 2nd District, forcing her to either move further south or to challenge her colleague and fellow incumbent, Rep. Michaud.
Further, it moves the Democratic-leaning cities of Lewiston and Auburn to the 1st District, which would help the chances of Kevin Raye, the Republican Senate President, who is likely to challenge Rep. Michaud (again) next year. And since Maine splits its Electoral College votes in presidential elections, it would also help a Republican nominee for that office in 2012.
That dark line running west to east on the Republican map is the line separating the existing districts.
A public hearing is scheduled on the two plans, or a joint compromise one (should the two sides come to an agreement), for 23 August, at which time the Commission may vote to approve a plan to send to the Legislature.
Under Maine statute, the Legislature must approve a proposed plan by a 2/3 vote of both houses (21-A MRSA §1206.1.), and if they do, it is then sent to the Governor for his signature or veto. It will then be reviewed by the US District Court.
But Maine Republicans hold a majority in both houses of the Legislature, and already there are rumors that they will attempt to change the statute so that just a simple majority is needed to endorse a plan. If this is in fact the Republicans plan of action, then they have no reason to negotiate in good faith, since they will ram through whatever plan they want.