“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the years of redistricting the Maine Legislature, congressional districts and county commissioner districts after 2013 from 2023 and every 10th year thereafter to 2021 and every 10th year thereafter?”
The politically charged redistricting process, mandated to occur every 10 years to reflect new Census data, may get a little easier — and certainly less painful for observers — if voters approve Question 4 on Nov. 8. The process also will be more timely, reflecting the results of the most recent Census. Voters should approve this change.
Among the changes that will follow voter approval of the question are that redistricting of Maine’s two congressional districts, state legislative districts and county commissioner districts will be achieved by 2021, instead of 2023. In other words, the process would be accelerated to be completed closer to the release of the actual population data from the most recent U.S. Census.
The question was put on the ballot by a bill sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keschl, a Belgrade Republican. He explains that it puts Maine on the same redistricting timeline as other states. Though Maine did conclude its congressional redistricting process just weeks ago — that is, in 2011, not 2013 — it only came because the state faced a court order. Legislative and county commissioner redistricting will come in two years.
Furthermore, the most recent redistricting process almost ended in a political solution that would have engendered great anger on one side of the aisle — Republicans in the Legislature threatened to pass their redistricting plan on a simple majority vote. If Question 4 is approved, a two-thirds vote would be needed to approve the new district maps.
Question 4 is a rarity in referendum history in that its approval would facilitate a better way to resolve an inherently political conundrum. It does so by leveraging better cooperation between the parties. A yes vote will spare us all the angst of watching the next redistricting process, which is something like watching a divorcing couple fight over the family dog.