PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s highest court heard public comments Monday on its proposal to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state senate districts.

None of the 20 people who signed up to speak at a public hearing offered unqualified endorsement of the redistricting plan that the Supreme Judicial Court released last week after state lawmakers failed to reach an agreement.

Several speakers quibbled about the new lines for senate districts, arguing that they would split up neighboring towns or create districts so large as to be unwieldy.

States are required to redraw district boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded in the most recent federal census. The 2000 census showed that populations dwindled in northern Maine during the 1990s while growing in southern Maine.

Maintaining a balance between the state’s two congressional districts meant areas traditionally in the 1st District, which covers southern Maine, would have to be shifted into the northern 2nd District.

The court’s proposal moves coastal Knox County, which has more registered Republicans than Democrats, into the 2nd District. Officials from the state Democratic Party have spoken out against the change.

More than 50 people, many of them current or former lawmakers, attended Monday’s hearing. Some of the speakers brought their own maps, and each had five minutes to make their case, with justices occasionally posing questions.

Portland Mayor James Cloutier said the court’s proposal would create administrative hassles because senate districts would not be contiguous with existing city council and school district boundaries.

The redistricting proposal does not contemplate districts for the state House of Representatives or for county commissioners, where lawmakers reached agreements.

The court’s seven justices are expected to review public comments before revising their redistricting proposals.


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