FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors decided Tuesday, Feb. 15, to move forward with reapportioning the number of seats or votes for each town.

Director J. Wayne Kinney of Farmington has been instructed to draft a letter for the board to send to the Maine Department of Education requesting Education Commissioner Pender Makin begin the process.

Apportionment is the act of assigning each municipality in a district a number of seats or votes on a board of directors to ensure a “one-person, one-vote principle.”

According to state law, the ratio of the board is determined by the latest Federal Decennial Census, counting every U.S. resident. The 2020 census has raised the question of whether the board should prepare for reapportionment.

Reapportionment was first considered at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting. At that meeting, there was considerable discussion around whether the board should make the first move in this process.

Reapportionment can be triggered by the education commissioner, a request from the board or “a petition signed by a number of regional school unit voters equal to at least 10% of the voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election in the regional school unit,” according to state statute.


On Jan. 25, directors were concerned that amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reapportionment process would be yet another issue or duty added to the already full plates of community members that would have to partake in a reapportionment commission if the process were formally triggered.

Concerns were also raised around whether triggering reapportionment could put the board at risk of switching to at-large voting.

There are three methods of apportionment in which a number of votes are assigned to each director when they go to vote on the board: subdistrict representation, weighted votes and at-large voting.

As it stands, RSU 9’s board is organized under the weighted system. This means that a municipality is assigned a number of seats on the board (and votes each seat has) based on its population within the overall district.

According to Kinney’s calculations, based on 2010 and 2020 census data: directors from Chesterville, Farmington, New Sharon, Temple and Vienna would gain more votes and Industry, Starks, Weld and Wilton would stand to lose votes. New Vineyard’s voting power would not change.

With at-large voting, directors from each municipality would be elected by the entire district. Each director would have one vote, despite large population disparities across the district’s 10 municipalities.


Chairwoman Carol Coles of Starks said at Tuesday’s meeting that “the biggest issue is changing the whole methodology of how we (apportion the board).”

Concerns around methodology were at the forefront because “petitions were distributed to urge for an at-large system” in 2018, Kinney wrote in an initial report. However, he said “petition signatures were not dated or witnessed (and) it appears the effort was dropped.”

The discussion was tabled at the Jan. 25 meeting. However, Kinney brought it back to the board Tuesday because “we owe the people of the district the chance to be represented fairly.”

Kinney and Director Cherieann Harrison of Wilton said there have been a number of times in recent history that the outcome of a vote has been impacted by each director’s voting power.

Despite the concerns mentioned, there was more consensus among directors at Tuesday’s meeting than on Jan. 25. For the most part, they agreed that the right decision would be to trigger reapportionment as a board, rather than wait for members of the community to file a petition, which Kinney calls a “complicated and lengthy” process.

Additionally, directors agreed that voters are owed fair representation — on principle and by legal requirement.

“My feeling is that we would be wise to (go with) the school board asking the education commissioner to start the process,” Coles said. “Because then we know that we’re underway. We’re not waiting for someone to tell us what to do.”

Kinney will return to the next board meeting March 8 with a draft letter for directors to consider sending to the state education commissioner.

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