AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Apportionment Commission held a public hearing Monday to discuss the possible restructuring of congressional districts.
Senate Democrats recently released a map proposal that they say accurately reflects changes in Maine’s population.
The redistricting would move thousands of Democratic voters into the state’s 2nd Congressional District, adding the cities of Augusta, Hallowell and Waterville.
Republicans have also proposed their own congressional map.
“I‘ll be honest, the proposals put forward by both Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans are not perfect, but given the expedited timeline both caucuses thought that it was important to put forward some proposals for the sake of transparency and to get the public input,” Sen. President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said.
“I believe these proposals should not be considered final, but rather a framework for the final product,” he said.
The commission listened to comments from the public regarding the proposed maps.
Some who spoke in front of the commission raised concerns of political influence being the main reason behind the map proposals.
“Looking at maps that look quite bad and that there is some partisan leaning,” said Patricia Rupert-Nassim of Fort Kent.
“It undermines, personally, my confidence at looking at the representative map, which also have some real funny shaped districts in them, so I look at that and go, ‘Hmmm. I wonder why those are shaped that way.'”
David Emery, a former state representative, pushed back on that point.
He says the commission agrees that it’s better to have geographically balanced districts but the current rules in place make this very difficult.
“The problem that we face is the supreme court, U.S. Supreme Court, decision that requires the population to be as close to even as practicable and that’s what drives the difference of one,” Emery said.
“It’s not gerrymandering,” he said. “Gerrymandering may flow from the fact that there are only certain combinations that give you that differential.”
Following the hearing, the commission voted unanimously to pass the proposed County Commissioner District plans.
The next hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.