Maine House OKs redistricting plan; Senate split

Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME) - Friday, April 11, 2003
Author: FRANCIS X. QUINN, Associated Press Writer
AUGUSTA - The Maine House of Representatives gave its seal of approval Thursday to a plan for redrawing all of its 151 electoral districts. 

But Democrats and Republicans remained divided over how to shape new maps for 35 state Senate districts and Maine's two congressional districts. 

As a result, the whole matter still appears to be headed to the state supreme court for resolution. Yet at the same time, voting in the Legislature isn't done. 

No multipart redistricting package gained bipartisan support within the 15-member apportionment commission that concluded its work a week ago. 

The panel did agree on the state House plan. 

Negotiators on both sides believe there is a good chance that the law court, if given the whole task to do, would be willing to accept pieces that had garnered support within the commission and the full Legislature. 

If so, the House vote to approve its own redistricting Thursday could be persuasive. 

The final tally in favor of the state House remapping was 127-7. 

Democratic Rep. Matthew Dunlap of Old Town, who served on the apportionment panel, said the commission's ultimate product came out of "a very long and painful process for everybody." 

In recent days, there have been indications that the process might not be over. 

Senate leaders said there was a possibility that further negotiations might generate a compromise on Senate districts. And on Thursday, House Democrats opposed a new Republican proposal on congressional district mapping, but did not appear to shut the door to more discussion. 

Redistricting is required every 10 years to reflect population changes measured in the most recent federal census. 

The task of redistricting was given to the state supreme court 10 years ago. But 10 years before that, the House and Senate approved a redistricting package themselves. 

Enactment of a plan by the Legislature requires two-thirds House and Senate majorities. 

Currently, Democrats control both chambers, 18-17 in the Senate and 80-67, with one Green Independent and three unenrolled, in the House. 

Data from the 2000 census showed that communities across southern Maine grew during the 1990s while population in the north dwindled. 

The bipartisan state House district plan holds potential for pitting four pairs of incumbents against each other in next year's elections. 

One of the four new districts being proposed lies within the city of Portland, and the proposal to create it has drawn sharp criticism from Green Independent incumbent John Eder and some of his supporters.




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