Facing tight deadline, Maine redistricting panel will release proposed maps next week
By Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News Staff
AUGUSTA — Democrats and Republicans on Maine’s redistricting commission said they will release draft congressional and legislative maps next week, less than two weeks in advance of their court-ordered deadline.
Maine’s high court gave the bipartisan commission 45 days to draw new district boundaries after the Census data release, putting its deadline at Sep. 27. The Legislature is expected to convene after that to vote on potential maps.
Although both caucuses have been working independently on maps, neither presented any proposals at the commission’s Friday meeting. Public input in the process has been limited so far, and advocacy groups have encouraged the commission to release possible districts.
“One recurring piece of feedback we have received is that members of the public do not feel able to offer comment without maps to remark on,” said Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine in written testimony before the commission.
Retired Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander, the commission’s nonpartisan member and chair, said he would meet with members of both caucuses on Monday to discuss the schedule for releasing maps, with congressional, state senate and county commissioner maps to be released sometime next week. House maps may be ready by Friday, he said, or early in the week after that.
The commission scheduled its next hearing for Sept. 20 to get feedback on all maps that have been released up to that point. Another meeting may be scheduled later that week to seek feedback on House maps.
At the congressional level, the changes will likely involve moving towns within Kennebec County, the only county currently divided between the two districts. The commission needs to shift about 23,000 people on net from the 1st District to the 2nd District, and could do so while “leaving the major communities” in place, said David Emery, a former congressman working on the Republican side.
Only one map was presented during the commission’s Friday meeting — a plan developed by the Somerset County Commission to revise its county commissioner districts that was well-received by both parties. Several counties do not expect to make changes to their county commissioner districts because they did not see significant population changes, Alexander said.