Emery touts GOP redistricting proposal

Bangor Daily News (ME) - Friday, May 21, 1993
Author: Ned Porter Of the NEWS Staff: BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE
The Republican plan to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries should fare well before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, David Emery, a former congressman involved with the redistricting process, said Thursday night. 

"There's really no way to predict how the court will interpret the same data we had. But we feel we'll be in a good position once we present our maps to the court," Emery said during a speech before the Penobscot County Republican Committee. 

Partisan wrangling prevented the Reapportionment Commission and the Legislature from agreeing on how to divide the state into two congressional, 35 Senate and 151 House districts as well as county commission boundaries. So it is up to seven justices to render a plan. 

One wag at the meeting asked, "This won't be decided by the same judge who handed down Allen's sentence, will it?" That reference was to legislative aide Kenneth Allen, who received a 25-day sentence with time off for good behavior after pleading guilty to ballot-tampering charges. 

The topic Thursday night drew more attendees than usual to the committee's monthly meeting. About two dozen Republicans, most from greater Bangor, gathered to hear the latest news from the man Republicans hired as a consultant. 

Putting a partisan spin on the reapportionment efforts to date, Emery said, "The Democratic strategy, quite simply, was to protect incumbents. Some of their districts could have been drawn by a chimpanzee on a long weekend." The party sought to protect its strong majorities in the House and Senate. 

On the other hand, "Republicans didn't have as many incumbents to protect. We also tried to respond, to the greatest degree possible, to the public will as it was expressed to us," Emery said. In any event, he added that Republicans with their plan could at least meet the "straight-face test." 

The court likely will issue a plan by June 15 and have it "cast in stone" by June 30. 

Asked by G. Clifton Eames whether the court would create something different than what will be presented, Emery said, "As a practical matter it will have two or three weeks to decide what they're going to do. If they were going to start from scratch, they'd be behind the eight ball. They'll probably pick aspects of both plans that meet the constitutional guidelines, with a blind eye toward politics." 

Every 10 years in the wake of the U.S. Census, Maine's political boundaries are redrawn to accommodate population shifts. The 1990 census showed the population of Northern Maine shrinking and Southern Maine growing. However the lines are drawn, Northern Maine will have fewer legislators who have larger districts, and Southern Maine will have more legislators who have smaller districts. 

"It's the world's biggest crossword puzzle and an imperfect process," Emery said. Towns end up divided, incumbents pitted against each other and unlike communities lumped together.