Panel assembling to review Maine congressional district borders

Posted July 05, 2011, at 2:10 p.m.
Last modified July 05, 2011, at 5:27 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bipartisan panel that’s commissioned to redraw Maine’s congressional district line was near completion Tuesday as legislative leaders named their selections to the 15-member group.

A federal judge has ordered the Legislature to complete its work redrawing the line between Maine’s 1st and 2nd Districts by Sept. 30 to reflect population changes in the 2010 census. If the Legislature fails to do so, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has until Nov. 15 to finish the reapportionment. If the deadline still isn’t met, the job will be done by federal court.

Legislative leaders have expressed a commitment to comply and passed an order last week that formally sets into motion the redistricting process. The order sets an Aug. 31 deadline for the commission to submit its report.

“We will be active and willing participants in this short-term congressional redistricting in coming months,” Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, said when the order was passed.

Hobbins and House Democratic leader Rep. Emily Cain of Orono also expressed hope that majority Republicans will agree to ensure Democratic involvement by requiring a two-thirds majority vote for the final reapportionment plan.

While no date for a special legislative session to take up congressional reapportionment has been set, a mid-September date has been discussed.

Maine has two congressional districts. The 1st District typically includes the more densely populated southern coastal area, including the state’s largest city, Portland, while the 2nd District has covered a much larger and rural geographical area that’s one of the largest congressional districts in the East.

The legislative order specifies the makeup of the commission, with three members each appointed by the Democratic and GOP leaders of the House, two from each party’s Senate leaders, plus a public Democratic and public Republican member, and one each by the state Democratic and Republican party chairmen. Finally, the two public members agree on a 15th member who also serves as chairman of the commission.

House Republicans on Tuesday announced the appointments of Reps. Les Fossel of Alna, Ken Fredette of Newport and Rich Cebra of Naples. Also Tuesday, House Democrats announced the appointments of Reps. John Martin of Eagle Lake, John Welsh of Rockport and Henry Beck of Waterville.

Senate Republicans, who were announced Friday, are Sens. Debra Plowman, the assistant floor leader from Hampden, and Rodney Whittemore of Skowhegan. Senate Democrats are Sens. Philip Bartlett II of Gorham and Seth Goodall of Richmond.

In addition, the public GOP member will be Josh Tardy of Newport, a former legislator, while the Democratic public member is Cathy Newell, chairwoman of the Oxford County Democrats. Those appointments also were announced Tuesday.

Still to be determined are the selections from the state Democratic and Republican party chairmen and the choice of commission chairman.

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