Maine's Redistricting News
Portland Press Herald: "Revised
voting districts approved." July 3, 2003
Revised voting districts approved
By Tom Bell
July 3, 2003
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court approved a legislative redistricting plan that removes the nation's highest elected Green Independent Party member from his political base in Portland. The court also redrew the lines for Maine's two congressional districts to keep Knox County in the 1st District.
The court's final ruling puts an end to the contentious redistricting battle that occurs every 10 years when Maine adjusts state and federal voting districts to reflect population shifts.
In its ruling, the court dismissed a Green Independent Party lawsuit challenging a redistricting plan that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci. The court also replaced its own proposal for the state's two congressional districts with one that Democrats on Wednesday praised as being more fair.
Ben Meiklejohn, chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party, said he was disappointed by the court's ruling but is now looking forward to taking revenge on Democrats at the ballot box. He said the Legislature's redistricting plan - which separates the Green's only Maine legislator, Rep. John Eder, from his West End neighborhood and pits him against a Democratic incumbent - has upset the Greens so much that it has invigorated the party. He said the Greens will put up as many as 100 candidates for state office in 2004, and he promised a Green candidate in every district in Portland.
"We will gladly give both of those parties a challenge they have never seen," he said.
Democratic leaders were pleased by the ruling. Senate President Beverly Daggett, D-Augusta, called it a fair and balanced response. House Speaker Pat Colwell, D-Gardiner, said the plan effectively represents every voter in Maine.
Democrats were also pleased by the court's plan for the state's two congressional districts. The court's preliminary plan, which was aired at a public hearing on June 23, would have moved Republican-rich Knox County into the 2nd Congressional District, making it more difficult for Democrats to hold on to the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.
Instead, the seven justices unanimously agreed to redraw the district boundaries in a way that is similar to versions put forth by both Republicans and Democrats. The plan keeps Knox County in the 1st District and divides Kennebec County, which is already split between the 1st and 2nd District.
The court moved seven communities - Waterville, Winslow, Fayette, Oakland, Clinton, Benton and Litchfield - from the 1st District to the 2nd District.
It moved four towns - Monmouth, China, Albion and Unity Village - from the 2nd District to the 1st District.
Wayne remains in the 2nd District.
The justices cited the already sprawling size of the northern congressional district as a reason for confining the the changes to Kennebec County.
Democrats say the plan will put slightly more Democrats into the 2nd District. They said Waterville and Winslow are strongly Democrat with large Franco-American populations that are likely to support Michaud. But Republicans said several towns moving to the 2nd District are Republican and that the court's plan is politically neutral.
"It doesn't change the balance on one side or the other," said David Emery, who drafted the Republican proposal.
Michaud in a statement said he was pleased by the court's decision
The court also altered its original proposal for state Senate district boundaries in Portland. In moving from a north-south to an east-west split, the court left two Democratic incumbents, Sens. Michael Brennan and Ethan Strimling, in separate districts.
The court was forced to create a plan after the Legislature failed to reach a bipartisan agreement for new congressional and state Senate districts. In addition, the Green Independent Party had filed a lawsuit alleging that House redistricting plan violated the U.S. Constitution. The Greens argued that Democrats carved Portland's House districts in a way that protected their own incumbents and moved the nation's highest-elected Green Party member away from most of the West End voters who put him in office last November.
Eder now must decide whether he wants to face Democratic Rep. Ben Dudley or move a few blocks and try to unseat Democratic Rep. Ed Suslovic, whose new district includes the West End.
The court said the Legislature's plan complies with the U.S. Constitution, particularly the "one person, one vote" principle of the 14th Amendment. The fact that the plan protects incumbents or is politically motivated does not make the plan invalid, the court said, as long as both constitutional and statutory requirements are adhered to.
David Lourie, an attorney hired by the Green Party to challenge the redistricting plan, said the plan violates the constitutional requirement that districts be contiguous and compact. He said that the six Casco Bay islands that are now in the same district as Munjoy Hill would be removed and added to a district centered in East Deering. In addition, the Legislature drew a two-block jog in district lines to put Democratic Reps. Joe Brannigan and Glenn Cummings in separate districts.
He said the court ruling will make it virtually impossible in the future to challenge whatever plan the Legislature creates. Lourie said the party was victimized, first by the Legislature and then by the court.
"They did get shafted in the way this legislation was carried through," he said, "and they got nailed again."
Eder could not be reached for comment.
Staff WriterTom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]
Maine's high court tweaks congressional district lines
July 2, 2003
Maine's Supreme Court set new boundaries of the state's two congressional districts today, making only small changes to the districts' political composition. The court shifted existing district lines in only one county -- Kennebec -- to move 30,000 people from the southern 1st District to the northern 2nd District. Eleven cities or towns changed districts, all within Kennebec County. Seven of them, formerly part of Democrat Tom Allen's 1st District, will vote as part of 2nd District in the 2004 election. That district is represented by Democrat Michael H. Michaud. Four northern district towns are now part of the 1st District. Maine's Constitution calls for redistricting in the third year of each decade. This year, as in 1993, Maine's plan went from the legislature to an apportionment commission to Supreme Court before a map was completed. The map announced today makes "the least harm to the district," according to state Rep. Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat.
Court redraws political districts
By Tom Bell
June 19, 2003
AUGUSTA ó The state's highest court is proposing new voting districts that would move Knox County into the 2nd Congressional District and force Portland's two Democratic state senators to run against each other next year.
The proposal pleased Republicans and upset Democrats. Activists in both parties are closely watching the redistricting process, which sometimes can knock out incumbents and give one party an upper hand for the next decade.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will make a final decision on a plan after it holds a public hearing Monday at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
Every 10 years, states must adjust state and federal political districts to reflect population shifts documented in the U.S. Census. In Maine, which is among the last states to do so, officials must account for a shift of about 70,000 people from north to south. The court is devising the plan because the Legislature failed to reach a bipartisan agreement for new congressional and state Senate districts. The Legislature did agree on a plan for the 151 seats in the state House of Representatives.
The court has yet to rule on a lawsuit filed by the Green Party, which alleges that the House redistricting plan violated the federal Constitution by changing boundaries for District 31, the seat in Portland held by John Eder, a Green Independent. The ruling on that appeal is expected by the end of this month.
The state's two congressional districts now follow county lines, except in Kennebec County. Four of that county's towns, China, Albion, Wayne and Monmouth, are in the 2nd District, which is represented now by Democratic Rep. Michael Michaud. The rest of Kennebec County is in the 1st District, represented by Democrat Tom Allen.
Under the court's tentative plan, all of Kennebec County would be in the 1st District and all of Knox County would move to the 2nd District. Lincoln County would remain in the 1st District, except for a small portion near the county's eastern boundary.
Because Republicans outnumber Democrats in Knox County, the proposal would slightly increase the percentage of Republican voters in the 2nd District and lower the percentage of Republicans in the 1st District. In the 2000 election, 35 percent of the county's 22,726 registered voters were Republicans and 25 percent were Democrats, according to the Maine Republican Party.
Phil Merrill, one of the attorneys representing the Maine Democratic Party, said Knox County has been part of the 1st District since 1963 and should remain there. He said the Republican proposal in the Legislature is preferable to the court's plan, and he will ask the court to adopt it because it is less disruptive to the current districts.
The Republican plan would move all of Waldo County into the 1st District, where it used to be, and put the western half of Kennebec County into the 2nd District.
David Emery, who drafted the Republican proposal, said it appears that Democrats are concerned that the court's plan could make it more difficult for Michaud to win re-election.
He said that the court has done a "reasonably good job" and that Republicans will support it at Monday's hearing, asking only for some minor changes.
A spokesperson for Michaud declined to comment.
As for the state Senate, the proposal would put Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, and Michael Brennan, D-Portland, in the same district.
Strimling's current district covers the peninsula and the Stroudwater, Libbytown and Rosemont neighborhoods. The proposal would put the peninsula in the same district as the Back Cove and Deering neighborhoods. Wellington Road, where Brennan lives, would also be in that district.
Brennan's current district includes the western portions of Portland and all of Falmouth. In the court's proposal, the district would include Westbrook instead of Falmouth.
Falmouth, along with Yarmouth, would be added to the district now represented by Sen. Karl Turner, R-Cumberland.
Both Strimling and Brennan said Wednesday that they are unhappy with the plan and will seek changes.
In its written proposal, however, the court said that neither state law nor the Maine Constitution requires the court to consider the residence of incumbents.
Two other incumbents would share a district. Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, who is the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, could face each other in a general election.
Portland Press Herald
Democrats will oppose redistricting plan.
By Dennis Hoey
Democrats say they cannot accept a redistricting plan that would move all of Knox County and two Lincoln County communities - Bremen and Monhegan Island - out of the 1st Congressional District and into the 2nd Congressional District. The plan is proposed by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Phil Merrill, an attorney representing the Maine Democratic Party, said the court plan only increases the size of a district that is geographically huge to begin with. The 2nd District, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Michael Michaud, is the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi.
Merrill said party officials will oppose the plan at a public hearing Monday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. The 10 a.m. hearing could last all day. Maine's Supreme Court justices must adopt a redistricting plan no later than July 2.
Michaud and 1st District Democratic Rep. Thomas Allen declined to comment on the court's redistricting plan, saying it would be best if residents made their opinions known.
"That 2nd District is a mankiller. Why make it worse?" said Merrill, who lives in the Knox County community of Appleton.
The court is devising a redistricting plan because the Legislature failed to reach an agreement. Every 10 years, states must adjust state and federal political districts to reflect population shifts documented in the U.S. Census. In Maine, officials must account for a shift of about 70,000 people from north to south.
Knox County is predominantly Republican. Dwayne Bickford, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said there are 9,856 registered Republicans in Knox County, compared to 7,077 Democrats. Though the court plan is different than the one advanced by Republicans, Bickford said Republicans can live with it. He said Knox County has many similarities to Waldo County, another 2nd District county.
"Knox County is not Portland, it's not even Brunswick. It's much more rural. When you leave Rockland you are in rural Maine," Bickford said.
Knox County residents expressed surprise at the court's proposal - Knox County has been in the 1st District since 1963 - but most indicated it might work.
"I've got to think about it some more, but on the surface it might give us a better voice," said Grant Watmough, Warren's town manager. "It's not going to have a major effect."
State Rep. Deborah McNeil, R-Rockland, said people in her district are not voting along party lines as much as they used to, and for many it doesn't matter whether they are represented by Allen or Michaud.
On the other hand, Skip Pease, a Rockland attorney who is a Republican, says it came as a surprise to him when he learned that the court wanted to move all of Knox County out of the 1st District.
"That's pretty drastic," said Pease, who seemed less concerned about representation. "I see no differences between Allen and Michaud."
On Monhegan Island, Kathleen Boegel, who runs the North End Market, said she had not heard about the redistricting plan before Thursday.
"I'm not sure what it all means, but I do not have any vested interest in either representative," Boegel said.
Monica Castellanos, Michaud's spokeswoman, and Mark Sullivan, Allen's representative, said both congressmen feel it would be premature to comment on the court's redistricting plan before the public has a chance to comment. But Sullivan said he is not convinced that Maine people are anchored to any one congressional representative because of the delegation's relatively small size.
"Maine people call all of their congressmen. They think of their delegates as serving the entire state," Sullivan said.
But Merrill, the Democratic Party spokesman, said the court's plan is unacceptable. It would tear two "sister counties" (Lincoln and Knox) apart, Merrill said.
"I don't think it's a good idea, from any point of view," he said. "That district is already a huge challenge to get across. This would only make the district all that much harder to represent."
Greens to challenge redistricting plan in court
PORTLAND (AP) -- The Maine Green Independent Party plans to file suit Friday to challenge a redistricting plan that splits up Portland's West End neighborhood.
The Greens and co-plaintiffs say the House of Representative's plan cuts off Green Representative John Eder from about 70 percent of his constituents. Eder -- who's only the second elected Green legislator in the country -- has claimed the mapping was "politically motivated" against him.
The lawyer representing the Greens, David Lourie, says the redistricting plan violates the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Maine Constitution.
Lourie plans to file the lawsuit with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court following a news conference in Portland Friday morning.
Green Party is singing the blues Maine legislator says redistricting plan is plot to drive him out
By Sarah Schweitzer
April 13, 2003
PORTLAND, Maine -- For a leader of a party of one, state Representative John Eder, Maine's sole Green Independent Party legislator, was doing pretty well for himself.
He prevailed in a battle for a State House office (windowless but separate from the Democrats, as he insisted.) His bill to ban pesticides in schools sailed through committee. And he quieted those who pooh-poohed his carless status, arriving for work in Augusta via carpool or commuter van.
But now Eder, 34, a former massage therapist who made history last November as the first Green elected to a state Legislature in a regular election, and the highest-ranking elected Green in the nation, says his political undoing may be at hand.
A proposed redistricting plan would carve up his district in Portland's progressive West End and cause him to forfeit more than half his constituents, a design Eder says Democratic powerbrokers created to avoid pitting their own incumbents against one another in 2004.
''There continues to be denial that we are here and here to stay,'' said Eder, who won his seat with 67 percent of the vote. ''Now the Democrats are making this effort to get us out, like we're some kind of quirk or passing fad.''
Maine is a state known for its embrace of Independents. Former governor Angus King, who served from 1995 to 2003, was Maine's second Independent to occupy the corner office. The House now counts three Independents among its members.
But third parties are a different story: The last time third-party representatives won seats in the Maine Legislature was 1915, with the election of four members of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party.
Eder says Democrats -- who control the Legislature and the governor's office and lose more voters to the Green Party than Republicans do -- see him as a liberal vote-drainer. Some of his constituents have joined him in bad-mouthing the Democrats, which have long dominated politics in Portland.
''There are three Independents in the House,'' Eder said. ''They have not been irreparably harmed by the redistricting.''
The redistricting plan was spurred by 2000 Census data that showed southern Maine gaining population from the north and urban areas like Portland losing residents to suburban ones. It would result in incumbent-against-incumbent matchups in four districts, including Eder's, of the 151 in the state.
The plan handily passed the House on Thursday, and the Senate is expected to vote on it tomorrow. If the Senate approves the measure, Eder vows to challenge it in court.
Democrats say the redistricting move is hardly the get-the-Greens script Eder alleges, but instead reflects an effort to avoid merging urban voting districts with more conservative suburban ones around Portland, which could give Republicans inroads in the most liberal pocket of the state.
''Redistricting, no matter what you do, is political,'' said Michael Saxl, a former speaker of the House who once represented Eder's district and served as a consultant to the commission that recommended the redistricting plan. ''Political considerations are part of making districts, absolutely, but the guiding principle is one person one vote.''
Eder's vulnerability is a source of concern for the national Green Party, which says it has about 170 members in elected offices across the country.
Eder's seat is a beacon for the party, celebrated as a triumph that vaulted a member into a state house for the first time during a regular election, surpassing a 1999 special election win that sent Audie Bock to California's state Assembly, a triumph soon deflated when she became an Independent and later a Democrat.
Eder's election ''was a breakthrough for the party,'' said Anne Goeke, cochairwoman of the International Committee of the Green Party, in Washington. ''It was a big win in a straightforward election, so what's happening now is very upsetting for the whole party.''
A onetime Irish enclave, Eder's district is a funky area of mansard-roofed homes and gourmet corner markets that now counts large numbers of single renters and a contingent of gays and lesbians among its residents. Word of the redistricting plan, which would combine the neighborhood with the Democratic stronghold of Munjoy Hill, has prompted some to question Democrats' motives.
''It's a blatant statement that the Democrats don't want someone from another party in Augusta,'' said Annetta Weatherhead, 37, a teaching assistant who said she has voted for third-party candidates, including Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2000. ''They are changing the rules of the game to their convenience.''
Deborah Paley, a technical writer who moved to Portland five years ago from Brooklyn and cast her first Green Party vote for Eder, said, ''This has definitely lessened my loyalty to the Democratic Party.''
Democrats say they are being unfairly targeted as they try to combat Republican efforts around Portland. They dismiss allegations that the party radically deviated from practice to avoid primaries for Portland Democrats, three of whom live within blocks of one another.
''This was not an assassination attempt on John Eder,'' said Representative Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat from the city's Old Town section, who cochaired the reapportionment commission. He noted that three other incumbents will face incumbents in the next election.
Eder, who arrived in Maine by way of a blueberry picking expedition, said the redistricting plan took him by surprise, particularly because his somewhat tumultuous start in the State House gave way to a kind of negotiated camaraderie. Eder said he has consistently voted with the Democrats and earned support for the measures he backs, including single-payer health insurance, restrictions on cellphone use while driving, and a ''living wage'' for health-care workers.
Now he says his time is spent on the redistricting battle, along with the housing conundrum it presents: His apartment under the new plan is located in the district where fewer than half his constituents reside. Eder would have to move to the new district to recapture the bulk of his constituents, but that would force him to forfeit his seat to meet a three-month residency requirement.
''They're creative little monkeys,'' Eder said.
Redistricting talks start again
By Francis X. Quinn
April 9, 2003
AUGUSTA ó Although Maine's commission for redrawing the state's political boundaries expired last week after breaking down along party lines, there is a new round of discussions going on behind the scenes.
Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Senate have been conferring to see if they can still strike a deal before the matter moves to the Maine supreme court.
Before its deadline for action passed last Thursday, the apportionment panel agreed on the shape of 151 new state House of Representatives districts. But members failed to agree on how to remap 35 state Senate districts and the two congressional districts.
The commission's divided recommendations are due to go before the full Legislature, and House and Senate majorities of two-thirds would be needed for approval.
Without some further evidence of bipartisan acceptance, such super majorities are deemed highly unlikely.
"There are still talks going on," said Senate Majority Leader Sharon Treat, D-Farmingdale. "The commission was extremely close to something that was agreed upon."
Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, put the chances for success at "50-50."
Davis suggested that the renewed effort to achieve an accord would be concluded one way or another by early next week.
"Still negotiating, ... with the idea of getting something through," he said.
In last week's commission voting, neutral chairman Donald Zillman sided with the Democratic contingent on its congressional district proposal, which would move Waterville from the 1st into the 2nd Congressional District.
The Republican plan would fashion a new 1st District along a north-south axis.
Saying he found merit in both, Zillman abstained from expressing a preference on competing state Senate plans, leaving the panel evenly divided.
The Democratic state Senate plan would more equally apportion population among districts overall, while the Republican plan would divide fewer smaller towns.
"If it breaks down, it breaks down," Treat said, "but we're no worse off than if we hadn't had the discussion."
If lawmakers can eliminate or minimize the need for the law court to get involved, Treat said, "we'd just as soon do that."
Ten years ago, the redistricting task was given to the court but 20 years ago the House and Senate approved a redistricting package themselves.
Data from the 2000 census showed that communities across southern Maine grew during the 1990s while population in the north kept dwindling.
Points of contention between the two sides have included state Senate districts in York County and across parts of central Maine.
In recent years, the partisan campaigns for control of the state Senate have been extremely competitive.
The 2000 elections produced a 17-17-1 deadlock. Democrats currently hold the thinnest possible Senate majority, 18-17
GOPís redistricting plan irks Democrats
By Bonnie Washuk
March 20, 2003
To help end the ìtwo Maines,î Republicans want to redraw the borders of Maineís two U.S. Congressional Districts into eastern and western instead of southern and northern.
Democrats say they will fight the idea, accusing Republicans of trying to eliminate a Democrat from office, and calling it ìa slap in the faceî to Lewiston because Lewiston would lose its political clout.
Republicans on a redistricting committee are recommending that U.S. Rep. Tom Allenís 1st District would be western Maine and include counties from northern Somerset to southern York. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaudís 2nd District would be eastern Maine and include counties from Aroostook to Cumberland.
The two districts are now divided north and south. The 1st District covers southern Maine, the 2nd central and northern.
By law the district borders must be redrawn every 10 years after a census to ensure the districtsí population is fairly represented. Now, the northern district covers more land, but fewer people.
Republican are recommending a plan that would split the state not quite down the middle, east and west, for a couple of reasons, said Dave Emery. Emery is a former U.S. Congressman serving on the Republican caucus of the redistricting committee.
Their plan would give both of Maineís members a stake in improving northern Maine, he said. ìIf we divide the state in such a way that both members have familiarity with northern and rural eastern Maine where the economy is very severe, it would serve the state better.î
Allen has not ignored the 2nd District, but with his district hugging southern Maine he has no reason to go to Presque Isle, Farmington or Millinocket, Emery said. ìIf youíre not familiar with those areas, youíre not going to be as tuned in.î
Republicans ìare united behind the idea,î Emery said.
Democrats are opposed, said Democratic activist Phil Merrill, who serves on the Democratic caucus of the redistricting committee.
The only reason Republicans came up with the idea is to knock one of the two Democratic congressmen from their seat, Merrill charged. The GOP plan would have Michaudís and Allenís hometowns in the same district, which would mean one would not be able to run for office, since they must live in the district they represent.
ìI want to congratulate David Emery for finding a way to have the congressman from Millinocket and from Portland in the same district,î Merrill said sarcastically. ìWeíd have to lose one of them. This is not in the interest of the people of Maine.î
The GOP plan would create districts that are incompatible, Merrill said. Moosehead and Cape Elizabeth have different problems, but would be in the same district. ìThereíd be no community of interest in those districts.î
And Lewiston and Bangor would lose their political centers, their clout as the two areas of the 2nd District with the heaviest populations. Emeryís plan would have Cumberland County in both districts, which would mean the largest population centers for both districts would be in that county.
ìThis is a slap in the face to Lewiston and Bangor,î Merrill said. ìNever before have we had a line like that. We will never agree to it.î
The full redistricting committee will recommend a plan to the state Legislature by April 3. If lawmakers donít agree it will be up to the Maine Supreme Court to decide, Emery said. The redistricting will take effect in the 2004 election.
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