AUGUSTA — Republicans and Democrats introduced vastly different proposals Monday to redraw Maine’s two congressional districts.

Though each side questioned the political motives of the other, the independent chairman of the Reapportionment Committee ended Monday’s meeting by saying he is hopeful that a compromise can be reached.

Democrats said their top priority is to leave Maine’s congressional map mostly unchanged. Republicans said their goal is to create two districts that are split as evenly as possible.

Republicans bristled when Democrats questioned why the Republicans’ proposal would put the homes of Maine’s Democratic U.S. representatives, Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Mike Michaud of the 2nd District, in the same district.

Republicans propose including Androscoggin County — including Auburn and Lewiston — as well as Oxford County and some Franklin County towns in a new 1st District.

The new 2nd District would include Lincoln County, Sagadahoc County and Knox County — where Pingree’s hometown of North Haven is — and would redistribute some towns in Kennebec County.

The result would be two districts with just a one-person difference in population, according to 2010 census information.

Democrats propose altering the current districts by just one town, switching Vassalboro’s 4,340 people from the 1st District to the 2nd. Their plan would leave a population difference of 11 people between the two districts.

A panel of federal judges ruled in June that Maine must redraw its congressional districts to reflect population shifts in time for the 2012 elections.

The 2010 census indicated that the population of the 1st District, made up of York, Cumberland, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties and part of Kennebec County, stood at 668,515 while the 2nd District had a population of 659,848.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office agreed that the state’s congressional districts are no longer as equal in population as required by the Constitution.

State Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said Monday that the commission’s role is to address the laws regarding the redistricting process, “not look at political niceties which protect two incumbents and the status quo.”

The idea that Republicans aren’t negotiating in good faith is “offensive and inappropriate,” he said later in the meeting.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said elections change the status quo, which shouldn’t be changed through redistricting.

It’s unlikely that Pingree and Michaud would ever square off in an election. Pingree owns a home in Portland, which would remain in the 1st District under either plan, and U.S. representatives don’t have to live in the districts they represent.

Republicans repeatedly defended their proposal — which would change the congressional districts of more than 300,000 Mainers — against Democrats’ criticism that it would be a “dramatic reshuffling.”

Rep. Les Fossel, R-Alna, said he wonders how many people even know who their U.S. representative is.

Dan Billings, Gov. Paul LePage’s chief legal counsel and a member of the commission, also sought to minimize concerns about so-called displacement.

“No one’s moving here. We’re simply changing a line on a map,” he said.

Democrats, opposing the Republicans’ plan, claimed that according to their data on Maine voters, the GOP proposal would shift about 10,000 Republicans into the 2nd District, likely making it a better place for aspiring Republican politicians.

Michael Friedman of Bangor, an independent who chairs the 15-member panel, said he would like the two parties to determine by the end of this week whether they think they can reach a compromise.

“There is no doubt in my mind that both sides have approached this in a very serious manner and with the utmost faith,” he said. “And they continue to indicate to me that they are willing to compromise, and we’re still going to strive for that, even though what we hear today highlights the fact that there is a division.”

Friedman scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 23 to allow the public to weigh in on the issue.

The commission is to submit a plan to the Legislature. LePage has called a special legislative session Sept. 27 for a vote on the plan.

If the Legislature cannot adopt a plan with two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will make the apportionment. The court ended up setting congressional district boundaries in 1993 and 2003.

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

[email protected]

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