Maine completes redistricting without gerrymandering drama

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature approved new congressional, legislative and county commission maps Wednesday without bitter bipartisan fights and gerrymandering that plagued efforts in other states.

All the maps were approved by a two-thirds majority in both chambers and Gov. Janet Mills wasted no time in providing her signature, making Maine the second state, after Oregon, to complete the redistricting process.

Mills praised the lawmakers from both parties for the achievement. “To have done so without rancor and partisanship and under a constrained timeline is something Maine people can be proud of,” she said.

The new maps move tens of thousands of Mainers to new districts and will help shape political races for the next decade.

Legislative leaders from both parties were content with the outcome.

“The odds certainly were not in our favor but once again, Maine lawmakers have proven that bipartisanship is alive and well in Augusta,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, a Democrat from Allagash.

For congressional districts, the panel had to move about 23,300 voters from the 1st Congressional District to the 2nd District to reflect population shifts over the past 10 years.

The maps were agreed upon by a bipartisan commission led by Supreme Court Justice Donald Alexander, and the process avoided the gerrymandering accusations that have cropped up elsewhere.

Gerrymandering refers to drawing maps in a way that gives a big advantage to one party over the other.

“Sometimes it takes a few weeks and many hours of working out our differences, but the result of the latest apportionment process shows that when all sides sit down and work together, we can arrive at a positive outcome for the people of Maine,” said Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner.

All told, the redistricting process covered districts for 151 House and 35 Senate seats, two congressional seats and county commission seats.

All told, more than 50,000 residents were affected in Kennebec County as the border separating the congressional districts was redrawn.

For the congressional districts, Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise that moved Augusta to the 2nd Congressional District while keeping Waterville in the 1st District.

Municipalities that shifted to the 2nd District were Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop, while, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Litchfield and West Gardiner moved to the 1st District.

The process moved along quickly.

The deadlines for redistricting were supposed to be in August, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court provided extra time to complete the work because the census numbers were delayed.