AUGUSTA — A meeting is scheduled Tuesday for the public to weigh in on congressional redistricting in Maine, but it’s not clear exactly what will be up for debate.

Republicans and Democrats, who offered wildly different plans for Maine’s two congressional districts earlier this week, are still negotiating in hopes of reaching a compromise. But after a week of discussions, both sides ratcheted up the political rhetoric on Friday.

The 15-member Reapportionment Committee must find a way to even out the population of the state’s congressional districts, which amounts to adding about 4,000 people to the 2nd District, following results of the 2010 U.S. Census. A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Appropriations Committee room at the State House.

Democrats released a new proposal Friday that only slightly differed from their original. Republicans issued a release saying they had presented two additional proposals to Democrats for consideration, but they declined to offer the new maps or present any details to the public.

Instead of just moving Vassalboro from the 1st District to the 2nd District, as the previous plan did, the latest Democratic proposal would move Albion, China, Rome, Unity Township and Vassalboro to the 2nd District, and put Oakland and Wayne into the 1st District.

Including more towns in the swap would reduce the difference in population between the districts from 11 in the Democrats’ first proposal to just three in the updated version.

Republicans, who presented an initial plan with a one-person difference between the districts, had criticized Democrats for including too much variance.

Democrats, meanwhile, took issue with the original Republican draft because it would change the congressional district of more than 300,000 Mainers, by moving the Midcoast to the 2nd District and moving Oxford County, Androscoggin County and portions of Franklin County to the 1st.

It would put North Haven, the hometown of Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents the 1st District, into the 2nd District. That change likely wouldn’t affect the re-election prospects for Pingree, who also owns a home in Portland. A U.S. representative is not legally obligated to live in the district he or she represents.

Republicans issued a release Friday saying Democrats had shown little interest in reaching a consensus.

“During every step of this process, Republicans have demonstrated that they are willing to work with Democrats as long as any compromise adheres to the federal court order,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, a member of the Reapportionment Commission, in the release.

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.

Republicans also accused Democrats on Friday of making it clear “that keeping Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in the 1st Congressional District is their top priority.”

Democrats denied both claims.

“The notion that the Democrats are playing politics is false, and the Republicans are clearly drawing the lines to seek an electoral advantage in future elections,” said state Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, who serves on the commission.

“The amount of time that many of us have put in, working with different ideas, and directly with the Republicans, makes those comments laughable,” he said.

A central topic of the negotiations is the fate of the Lewiston-Auburn region, Goodall said.

Republicans would like to see the traditionally Democratic area in the more liberal 1st District, allowing the lines to be redrawn to include more Republican voters in the 2nd District, which is now represented by Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat.

The panel must present a plan to the full Legislature by Aug. 31. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the proposal Sept. 27.

If lawmakers cannot come to an agreement, the redistricting will be determined by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

[email protected]


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