Parties unveil vastly different voting districts

AUGUSTA — Cathy Newell told a panel of state lawmakers charged with redrawing the lines for Maine's U.S. House seats that Oxford County residents strongly identify with the 2nd Congressional District.

Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press

Michael Friedman, chairman of the Reapportionment Committee,  responds to questions during a meeting  at the State House in Augusta on Monday. The commission met with the responsibility for redrawing the boundaries of Maine's two congressional districts.

Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press

A map showing redistricting preferred by Republicans in the state was unveiled at a meeting where Democrats and Republicans offered plans to redraw Maine's congressional district lines, at the State House in Augusta on Monday.

The Greenwood resident is a member of a congressional redistricting commission, which met Monday at the State House in an effort to carve out new boundaries for Maine's two congressional districts based on the latest census population data.

The Democrat opposes a Republican plan to transplant residents in Oxford and Androscoggin counties, as well as in 10 communities in Franklin County from the 2nd District to the 1st.

Democrats and Republicans drew their first lines in the sand at Monday's meeting, but those lines likely will be redrawn leading up to next month's scheduled special session vote by the full Legislature. The two parties' respective caucuses are hoping to come to consensus on a plan by Friday in preparation for a public hearing Tuesday.

Newell, who also serves as chairwoman of the Oxford County Democrats, made a pitch for keeping Oxford County in the 2nd District where, she argued, the communities have similar cultural and socioeconomic interests.

"I think we have a tremendous interest in the 2nd District" economically, including the northern forest and the tourism and ski industries, she said.

A high percentage of veterans and seniors as well as the federal agencies and congressional staffs that serve those populations can be found in the 2nd District, she said. The blue collar jobs found in rural Maine and in mill town communities such as Lewiston and Rumford forge a connection that also has strong ties in the tri-county region of the 2nd District, she said.

Newell said she plans to poll the local chambers of commerce as well as local hospitals and other entities on the competing parties' proposals.

Moreover, Newell said it was "extremely important" to keep not only Oxford County, but Androscoggin and Franklin counties also in the same district.

"There is a huge community of interest" in the central and western communities of the tri-county region, she said.

The bipartisan commission must find a way to balance the populations of the two congressional districts, which fell out of balance between the 2000 census and the one recorded in 2010, when the 1st District swelled to 668,515, compared to the 2nd, which only expanded to 659,846, a difference of 8,669 residents. The redistricting effort is aimed at equalizing the populations of both districts. A federal court case stresses the need to have new districts in place before the general elections in November 2012.

In the Democrats' plan, the town of Vassalboro in Kennebec County would move from the 1st District to the 2nd, a shift of 4,340 residents. Under that scenario, the two districts would continue to have unequal populations, a difference of 11 residents. Kennebec County has had a divided district since 1993.

Democrats argue their plan maintains compact and contiguous communities and displaces from their current districts as few residents as possible.

Republicans say their plan comes closest to dividing the two districts evenly, with the population of the 1st District outnumbering its counterpart by only one resident.

"There's a very clear set of standards in federal and state law that should dictate how the new districts should be drawn," Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said.

"We have a hard time understanding how the Republican plan addresses all of the criteria in law," said Goodall, a lawyer, after the meeting had adjourned. During the meeting, Goodall questioned whether Republicans were negotiating in good faith when their plan shifted so many voters from one district to another, including redistricting U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a resident of North Haven, out of her congressional district.

Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, took umbrage at Goodall's comment, saying it was offensive and inappropriate.

The exchange, like the competing maps, points up deep political divisions between the two parties.

When asked after the meeting if the GOP's new map could have been designed to help its 2nd District primary nominee win the general election next year by taking the traditional Democratic Twin Cities stronghold of Lewiston and Auburn out of the picture, Goodall said it might give that impression.

"It could definitely lead you to believe that this change in the districts is to strengthen opportunities for congressional Republican opportunities in the 2nd Congressional District," he said.

Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, said Republicans didn't consider where the two incumbent members of Congress lived when they drew the lines because the redistricting process is supposed to be blind to political considerations. In fact, residency in a district isn't required to represent that district, she said during Monday's meeting.

“The Republican proposal does, indeed, look different than the existing, outdated map," she later said in a written release. "But the intent of the law is not to minimize displacement or protect congressional incumbents. It is to ensure all Maine residents have an equal vote,” she said.

The GOP map shows tighter, more compact districts than the Democrat's boundaries that appear more jagged, she said.

Josh Tardy, an attorney from Newport who served recently as a Republican leader in the Legislature, said fellow members of the commission should keep an open mind about redrawing district lines in an effort to balance the two districts' populations as much as possible and not be tied to conventional thinking about "traditional" districts.

Despite the sharp contrast between the two plans unveiled Monday, independent commission member Mike Friedman, a Bangor attorney, was optimistic about a compromise plan: "This is not an impossible task."

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Does Michaud know what Gerrymandering is?

I read a press release from a Peter Chandler this afternoon. It was a plea for money for the Michaud campaign. There were at least two obvious typos in the release. I am embarrassed to have a congressman with the lack of skills that Michaud displays.

In the press release, the was a rant about "gerrymandering." The GOP map hardly looks gerrymandered.

Take a look at Barney Frank's gerrymandered district:

http://assets.realclearpolitics.com/images/districts/MA4.gif

Now, there is classic gerrmandering.

 's picture

Does Michaud know what Gerrymandering is?

I read a press release from a Peter Chandler this afternoon. It was a plea for money for the Michaud campaign. There were at least two obvious typos in the release. I am embarrassed to have a congressman with the lack of skills that Michaud displays.

In the press release, the was a rant about "gerrymandering." The GOP map hardly looks gerrymandered.

Take a look at Barney Frank's gerrymandered district:

http://assets.realclearpolitics.com/images/districts/MA4.gif

Now, there is classic gerrmandering.

Richard Tetrev's picture

Democrats do the same thing!

For the last 30 years Democrats in control of the state influenced future votes their way slapping Republicans in the face. For example the last time Maine House Districts were redrawn under Gov. Baldacci and House Speaker John Richardson the Republican leaning district of West Bath, Woolwich, and parts of Bath, Topsham, and (West Port I believe) was changed dramatically. The district took out most of West Bath & West Port but added the Cooks Corner end of Brunswick (about 2500 people). Brunswick is as far left as one could go and has ensured that a Republican will never win in this district, district 65.
So you Democrats that are so incensed you need to know that Republicans learned from YOU.

 's picture

Sorry

It is difficult to believe the Republicans are not trying to influence future votes when it slaps you in face. I like simple. Why change it dramatically when it is not necessary?

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

The unseen part of the GOP plan

All those with a (D) beside their names will be "accidentally" purged from the rolls the day before election day, but that won't matter because there will be room for just one Congressional candidate and, under the rules, he must be a middle aged white male Republican.

The Republican plan is aimed at gerrymandering that pesky commie, librul (sic), pinko Chellie Pingree out of a seat.

Unfortunately, whichever choice the Republican legislature and Republican governor make, Maine will be stuck with it until 2021. The Koch brothers money was well spent in 2010.

 's picture

Wow!

Leave it to the GOP to try to fix an imbalance of 8600 people by shifting over 350,000!
The republican plan smells of the worst kind of gerrymandering, done just for the sake of potentially changing the result of an upcoming election.

GARY SAVARD's picture

It looks to me like the

It looks to me like the redisticting plans are attempts by two differing groups of thieves to leverage their respective parties ability to steal an election. I'm curious to see the final outcome.

Joe Morin's picture

Hey!!! Someone gets it

I feel the same Gary. I absolutely feel the (R) are trying to adjust to their benefit, just like the (D) did last time. But hey! Thats politics.

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