AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s bipartisan redistricting commission approved Maine House and congressional maps Friday morning but was not able to achieve consensus on Senate districts with just days until its deadline, raising the specter that the issue will end up in court.
The 15-member commission must submit a final report on Monday. The Legislature is set to convene Wednesday to vote on congressional, House, Senate and county commissioner maps, which must each garner two-thirds approval.
The commission approved a plan for county commissioner districts last week. Maine Senate maps have been the most controversial, as lawmakers are looking for ways to adjust district boundaries after most of Maine’s population growth in the past decade occured in the southern half of the state.
So far, Republicans and Democrats have only released separate proposals. Among the biggest disputes are the division of districts in rapidly growing York County, where Republicans are looking to draw more competitive districts in a Democratic-leaning region, along with Penobscot County, where towns north of Bangor could find themselves in new districts next year.
“The negotiations have been very serious and very helpful but there are still substantial differences that we’re trying to work out,” Dave Emery, a former Republican congressman working on the party’s maps, said Friday.
Commission members agreed to meet again at 11 a.m. Monday to see if they will be able to put forward a consensus recommendation for the Legislature at that time. Under Maine law, if the Legislature fails to approve maps, the issue goes to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which holds its own public hearings and decides on district boundaries.
In accordance with a timeline released by the court after census delays earlier this year, justices would have 35 days to decide on maps. The court could just address Senate maps if the Legislature votes in favor other maps on Wednesday.
The congressional plan approved by the commission Friday moves the capital city of Augusta, along with the Kennebec County municipalities of Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop to the 2nd Congressional District, while Albion, Benton, Clinton, Litchfield, Unity Township and West Gardiner move to the 1st District.
The commission also approved Maine House maps Friday after making minor changes to the bipartisan proposal released earlier this week to keep incumbents in Buxton and Westbrook from having to run against each other. The group did not make changes in other parts of the state, including Hancock County, where several residents had testified Thursday about their concerns with respect to the divisions of districts on the Blue Hill Peninsula.