- Quinn Malter
How Redistricting Could Affect Maine
The results of the 2020 Census are in! Maine’s population has grown by about 34,000 people, and that means it’s time to talk about redistricting.
How does Maine conduct its redistricting process?
The Maine Legislature is responsible for redistricting following a census, adjusting the state’s two Congressional districts, 35 State Senate districts, and 151 State House districts accordingly. Legislators receive input from a 15-person bipartisan advisory commission. But the Legislature is not bound to follow the commission’s recommendations.
Delays in releasing the census data due to the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for legislators to make informed updates to district maps before the June 11 deadline. The Maine Supreme Court has granted legislators 45 days following the release of the census data to draw their maps. From there, the House and Senate must each approve the maps by a two-thirds vote, and Governor Mills has the opportunity to either pass or veto the redistricting plan.
What could happen this year?
Most of Maine’s population growth took place in the southern part of the state. As a result, 23,000 people will be moved from the state’s 1st Congressional District (served by Rep. Pingree) to the 2nd Congressional District (served by Rep. Golden) to ensure relatively equal representation. Which towns will change districts, however, remains unclear. The Bangor Daily News argues that the border shift will most likely happen in Kennebec County, which has already been split between the two districts.
Why does it matter?
In 2018, Rep. Jared Golden won by a narrow margin thanks to the state’s newly implemented ranked-choice voting system, defeating incumbent Bruce Poliquin. In 2020, voters in the district reelected Golden while also voting for President Trump. And Poliquin has announced that he will be running to unseat Golden in 2022. His chances of succeeding could rely heavily on which towns are added to the district.
The debate on this is likely to get heated, but away from the public eye. Maine’s Constitution requires that districts be “compact, contiguous, and cross political subdivision lines as few times as possible,” meaning it’s extremely unlikely we’ll see wildly gerrymandered districts like those seen in other states. Partisan disagreements over the new maps would go to the Maine Supreme Court for deliberation.
As far as the state’s legislative districts are concerned, we can’t make any numerical predictions just yet. York and Cumberland Counties both saw their populations grow by over 7 percent, while Aroostook and Piscataquis Counties saw their numbers decline. This would mean that Senate District 1 (served by Senate President Troy Jackson) and Senate District 4 (served by Senator Paul Davis) would expand to fill the void, while House and Senate districts in the southern part of the state (mainly Senate Districts 26-35 and House Districts 1-50) would see their borders shift.
Maine’s small size and fairly stable population put us in a good position to see little change in this round of redistricting. We’ll be sure to update you when new district maps become available.