MDI redistricting leaves some residents confused

Bangor Daily News (ME) - Saturday, May 29, 2004
Author: BILL TROTTER, OF THE NEWS STAFF: Bangor Daily News
The sprawling geography of this coastal Maine town - which includes six distinct villages, none of which have the same name as the municipality - can be confusing to people who haven't had time to memorize where its boundaries lie. 

Residents who have learned which coves and clusters of homes are part of Mount Desert, however, now have a new boundary to memorize and observe. It is a boundary that, on paper at least, separates neighbor from neighbor and has residents asking 'why?' according to town officials. 

The town of Mount Desert, all of which has been in one voting district, will be sliced between two new districts in the Maine House of Representatives when the new districts go into effect in November. Residents who live on the east side of Somes Sound or northeast of Oak Hill Road will vote in House District 35 while those who live on the west side of Somes Sound southwest of Oak Hill Road will cast their ballots in House District 36. 

Michael MacDonald, town manager of Mount Desert, said Friday that the odd boundary is a result of the state constitution, which requires House districts to represent roughly equal populations of people. He said that though some residents are perplexed by the division, there is a positive way to look at it. 

"It won't be so bad because we'll have twice as many [House representatives in Augusta] we can call," MacDonald said. 

According to Joelle Nolan, registrar of voters in Mount Desert, the town will have to have twice as many ballot clerks as it has had in recent years. 

Not long ago the town had three polling stations. To reduce its election-related workload by two-thirds, officials decided to have all voters cast their ballots at the fire station in Somesville, Nolan said Friday. Beginning with the primary election on June 8, residents still will vote at the Somesville location, she said, but they'll be divided into two groups according to the districts in which they live. 

The House district that used to include all of Mount Desert, however, has gained ground elsewhere. Cranberry Isles, which used to be part of a House district that included Tremont and other island communities in Hancock and Knox counties, is now in the same district as Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor. 

Though every legislative district in Hancock County, as in the rest of Maine, has been renumbered, most municipalities in the county are grouped with the same towns with which they were grouped before redistricting. 

Orland, however, is separated from its new House district by Bucksport, which remains paired with Orrington in another district. Orland's new district also includes Verona and the Waldo County towns of Frankfort, Prospect, Searsport and Stockton Springs. 

Other Hancock County towns that are in new House district groupings include Amherst, Aurora, Dedham, Eastbrook, Franklin, Great Pond, Mariaville, Orland, Osborn, Sedgwick, Sullivan, Trenton and Verona. Towns in the county that have switched to new state Senate districts include Eastbrook, Franklin, Great Pond, Osborn and Waltham. 

Isle au Haut, in Knox County, is joining a state Senate district that includes 22 Hancock County towns.