Party negotiators reach deal on new Maine legislative districts

·2 min read

Sep. 27—A special legislative commission tasked with redrawing the lines for Maine's 186 legislative districts and both congressional districts has sent compromise plans to the full Legislature, which will vote Wednesday on whether to approve them.

After negotiating over the weekend and much of Monday, the commission unanimously approved proposed changes to the boundaries of Maine's 35 state Senate seats. Redrawing the Senate maps became a sticking point for the 15-member commission, which includes seven Republicans and seven Democrats. Every 10 years, based on the most recent U.S. Census data, the maps are redrawn to ensure the districts contain a near equal number of residents.

While final details of the maps had yet to be released to the public, state senators from both parties agreed that neither Republicans or Democrats got all they wanted in the redrawn maps.

"I'm not sitting here over the moon or anything like that," said Senate President Troy Jackson from Allagash, one of the panel's seven Democrats, "because you get some things and some you don't." And while the process became heated at times, much of that in private negotiations out of public view, the process did produce a compromise, Jackson said.

Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford, one of the panel's Republicans, said the redrawn state Senate districts would lead to more competitive races for those seats over the next 10 years.

"One of the benefits of this map is the public is going to have choices and politicians are going to have to work hard to earn votes," Bennett said, "and I think that's really important. There is a lot of ground here, with this map, as funky as it looks in places, where people are going to have to earn the support of the constituents and I think that's a great benefit."

Some of the Senate district changes involved redrawing lines for Portland and adjacent cities. While Portland will still have three state senators, it will share two of them with Westbrook and South Portland. Other changes include shifting several towns in Franklin County among two Senate districts, while also shifting towns in Aroostook County from one district to another.

Last week, the panel unanimously approved changes to Maine's two congressional districts, the biggest moving Augusta from the 1st Congressional District into the 2nd.

The panel voted 14-0 on Monday, with one member absent, to approve the final portion of the plan, which will now face votes in the Legislature.

The proposals need to gain two-thirds support in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. If the Legislature fails to approve the maps, the decision will be made by the state Supreme Judicial Court. The new maps will first come into play during a statewide primary in June 2022.

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