Maine legislators cruise through approval of new district maps

By Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News Staff

The Maine Legislature on Wednesday breezed through approval of newly drawn legislative and congressional maps, shifting thousands of people from one congressional district to another and laying new political lines for the next decade.

The redistricting effort was crunched for time as delayed data releases from the U.S. Bureau of Census meant the information needed to shape the districts would come after a deadline laid out in the Maine Constitution. And even with an extension, the process was chaotic. The bipartisan commission did not release proposals until three-quarters of the extension was through. A struggle over how to divide up northern Maine Senate districts, in particular, caused angst, as did whether to move the liberal Waterville into Maine’s swing 2nd Congressional District.

But deals reached last week on both Maine House of Representatives and congressional district maps, along with a Monday accord on redrawn state Senate districts, ensured Wednesday would be relatively smooth. Maine is poised to become the second state to finalize its new districts, after Oregon approved its maps earlier this week. The maps now go to Gov. Janet Mills for final approval. 

There was little discussion on the maps, with lawmakers largely reflecting on the apportionment commission’s ability to reach a compromise in a short amount of time.

“Something that traditionally has months to happen, happened in mere weeks,” said Maine House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford. “It’s a lot of data and information flowing through.”

The Maine Senate, county commissioner and congressional maps received unanimous votes in both chambers. Only the Maine House district map encountered some resistance on final passage, with lawmakers in the House ultimately voting 119-10 to approve it. Some lawmakers protested how the maps divided their communities, including Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, who said he lost half of the geographic area of House District 42, which he represents.

“I did my best to work with the [apportionment] committee and use the process to make those changes,” he said. “Unfortunately that did not come together for the district I represent.”

An amendment from Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, that attempted to keep Owls Head in a single House district by grouping North Haven and Vinalhaven together was shot down.

The only changes to the state’s congressional maps will take place in Kennebec County, where about 54,000 Mainers will switch districts. Augusta, the capital city, will move from the 1st to the 2nd District, along with Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop. Meanwhile, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Litchfield, Unity township and West Gardiner will move from the 2nd District to the 1st.

In southern Maine, a new Senate district is likely to favor Republicans. On the coast, Washington County’s district will now also include 10 towns and several unorganized territories from Hancock County thanks to population decline. Penobscot County will see some of its population move to districts also covering Piscataquis and Aroostook counties for similar reasons.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.