High court's redistricting plan set for 1994

Bangor Daily News (ME) - Saturday, July 3, 1993
Author: John Ripley Of the NEWS Staff: BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE
Imagine two rival siblings trying to solve a complex puzzle, only to fail because they couldn't agree which pieces should go where. 

Include the parents stepping in to settle the matter, and you get some idea of how the task of apportioning the state's political boundaries ended up with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. 

Redrawing 151 House, 35 Senate, and two congressional districts is never an easy chore, but it is one that must be completed every 10 years to reflect shifts in population as reported by the census. 

Maine was the last state to apportion its districts, a process that took even longer this go-around after the Legislature was unable to muster the two-thirds vote needed to pass the plan. The job then went to the state's top court, which handed down its final version this week. 

Barring any federal court challenges, the districts listed here represent what the legislative and congressional districts will look like for the 1994 elections, the first in which the new plan takes affect. 

Congressional 

The congressional boundaries issued by the court in its draft June 15 design appeared somewhat familiar to members of the state Republican Party -- the court had, in fact, adopted the GOP proposal verbatim. 

Buttressing its proposal with an extensive case history, the GOP argued that mathematical equality must be the governing factor when redrawing congressional boundaries. And the Republican plan, which had a total difference of six people between districts, came the closest. 

Democrats, however, said other factors, such as existing boundaries and common interests, should rule the justices' decision-making. 

The court disagreed, accepted the GOP plan, and Democrats conceded the point during the public hearing on June 22 by not submitting a proposed amendment. 

The new congressional districts apparently will have little effect on either U.S. Reps. Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican, or Thomas Andrews, a Democrat. 

The 1st District will include all of Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and York counties, plus all of Kennebec County except Albion, China, Monmouth, Unity Plantation and Wayne. The 2nd District will include all of Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties, plus the Kennebec towns of Albion, China, Monmouth, Unity Plantation and Unity. 

House 

Because apportionment is based on population shifts, it had long been suspected that northern Maine would lose some legislative seats to the southern counties. 

This, analysts say, could further erode the influence of northern Maine, which for years held a grip on legislative leadership. Speaker John L. Martin of Eagle Lake has ruled the House for a generation, and before Senate President Dennis L. Dutremble of Biddeford was elected this session, many of his predecessors had come from the northern part of the state. 

Besides a loss of bragging rights, this dilution of northern power also could affect how the so-called two Maines -- urban and rural -- will divide the shrinking budget pie. Everything from school funding to road repairs could be affected by the shift in power. 

And, it appears that 24 House members will face fellow incumbents next year after the new map paired them in the same district. Of those, five are Republican-Democrat, one is Republican-Republican, and six are Democrat-Democrat. 

While some Bangor-area lawmakers -- including Democratic Reps. Julie Winn of Glenburn and Mary Cathcart of Orono -- have found themselves sharing a district for the 1994 elections, the number of proposed pairings was reduced by the court for the final list. 

Included in the reversals was the earlier proposal to put Rep. Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro, who some believe will be the next House speaker, in the same district with House Majority Whip Patrick Paradis of Augusta. To get from Mitchell's district to Paradis', the line had to cross the Kennebec River, leading House Speaker John L. Martin to say it was the worst case of gerrymandering he had ever seen. 

Senate 

Republican members of the Apportionment Commission believed early in the process they would get a better shake from the law court than the Legislature, where they are outnumbered. For the most part, it was a gamble won. 

Although the final list filed by the court this week did not favor the GOP as heavily as the initial draft did, Republicans, on balance, still came out of the process in better shape than Democrats. 

Among the potential benefits are four new Senate districts in predominantly Republican areas that will have no incumbent for the 1994 elections. If the GOP wins three of those seats, they could gain control of the Senate for the first time in a decade. Democrats now control the Senate 20-15. 

"The opportunity is there for the Republicans," Senate Majority Leader Donald E. Esty Jr. of Westbrook told the Associated Press. 

Still, the court used much of the Democrats' advice when it revised the draft, and the final plan adopted many Democratic proposals for the Senate. Among them was splitting Biddeford and Saco among two Senate districts after Democrats claimed that by combining them into a single seat, as the court originally proposed, would dilute the influence of the state's Franco-American constituency. 

For the status quo from both parties, however, there is bad news in that many senators will have to face their colleagues next year. 

At least six senators have been placed in the same district for the 1994 elections, including one Democrat-Democrat pairing and two Republican-Democrat couplings.


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