AUGUSTA, Maine — Democrats and Republicans are battling over moving Kennebec County’s biggest liberal stronghold of Waterville to the swing 2nd Congressional District after releasing dueling redistricting proposals Thursday.
The bipartisan commission is tasked with redrawing Maine’s congressional and legislative districts after most of the state’s population growth over the past decade occurred in a few southern counties. Lawmakers released partisan proposals for congressional and state Senate maps Thursday, along with a bipartisan proposal for county commissioner districts.
They came just 10 days before the commission’s deadline to draw new maps and showed that negotiations between Democrats and Republicans have been fruitless over the past few weeks. Each proposed shuffling a different set of a dozen towns between the districts. Both suggested moving the capital city of Augusta into the 2nd District for the first time in the modern era.At the congressional level, lawmakers have agreed to only swap towns within Kennebec County, the only one currently split between Maine’s two districts, in order to move about 23,000 people on net from the more populous 1st District to the sprawling 2nd District. There is an easier path for Democrats to pick up votes. They provided the most aggressive proposal.
Democrats would move the two biggest cities in the county — Augusta and Waterville — to the 2nd District. The other Democratic-leaning municipalities of Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester and Winthrop would go over with them, while mostly Republican-leaning Albion, Belgrade, Benton, Fayette, Gardiner, Mount Vernon, Sidney, Unity Township, Vienna, Wayne and West Gardiner would go into the solidly liberal 1st District.
Those districts are within one person by population. If the 2020 presidential election had occurred with the Democratic map, President Joe Biden would have picked up about 6,200 additional votes on net in the swing 2nd District, but still would have lost the district.
Republicans would move Augusta to the 2nd District, along with Chelsea, China, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Litchfield, Rome, Vassalboro, Windsor and Winslow, leaving Waterville in the 1st District. Their plan also moves Gardiner, Oakland, Sidney and West Gardiner to the 1st District.
If the districts proposed by Republicans were in use in the 2020 presidential election, Biden would have picked up a bit shy of 900 votes in the 2nd District — a much smaller total than under the Democratic-drawn map.
Waterville was in the 2nd District prior to the last round of redistricting in 2011, when it moved alongside neighboring Winslow to the 1st District. The city of nearly 16,000 people has 3,800 more Democrats than Republicans as the party’s biggest source of votes in the county.
The draft maps were released ahead of a Monday hearing where members of the public can offer feedback. The commission also has to decide on maps for Maine’s 151 House districts ahead of a Sept. 27 deadline. Those draft maps are expected to be released next week.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.