The state commission charged with redrawing Maine’s legislative and congressional districts is hoping that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will give it more time so redistricting efforts can begin later this summer.
The Apportionment Commission meets every 10 years to redraw legislative and congressional districts, but its work this year has been hampered by delays in U.S. Census population data.
The federal government has indicated that the data will arrive in mid-August, but the apportionment commission has already missed a constitutional deadline to send reconfigured district maps to the Legislature for approval.
In May, it petitioned Maine’s law court for an extension, arguing it needs granular population data to fairly and accurately redraw maps that effectively determine the constituencies — and electoral battlegrounds — for legislative and congressional representatives.
In some states the redistricting process is highly partisan, but Maine is one of several that uses a bipartisan commission to redraw the maps, and if that fails, leaves the process to the law court.
If the law court approves of the extension, the commission could complete its work later this fall.
The Apportionment Commission met Wednesday and agreed to postpone most of its work until it receives approval from the law court.
The 15-member commission, made up of current and former state legislators and partisan operators, has asked the court to give it 45 days after receiving the Census data to redraw the district maps and another 10 days for the Legislature to vote on them.
Approval of the new redistricting requires two-thirds support by the Legislature. Failing to meet that threshold would send the redistricting process to the law court.
Preliminary Census data released earlier this year confirmed that Maine would retain two congressional districts.
However, adjustments to the congressional district maps might be needed to account for population losses in the 2nd District and gains in the 1st — and to ensure that an even number of residents are represented in both.
A similar issue confronted the Apportionment Commission in 2011 when partisans battled over which towns in Kennebec County should be included in the 1st Congressional and the 2nd.
As a result, the Legislature approved congressional maps that moved Waterville and Winslow from the 2nd District to the 1st, while Albion, Belgrade, Gardiner, Monmouth, Mount Vernon, Randolph, Rome, Sidney, Unity Township, Vienna and West Gardiner moved from the 1st to the 2nd.
The Legislature approved redrawn legislative districts in 2013.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.