Maine’s Apportionment Commission, which is responsible for using the 2020 census data to reapportion the state’s legislative and federal congressional districts, held a digital meeting on August 18 to discuss its progress.
Members of the commission debated whether or not to hold a public hearing and solicit resident input before or after they reach a consensus about what new district maps should look like. The meeting adjourned without reaching a decision or setting a date for a hearing to solicit public comment.
Donald Alexander, the commission’s chair, stated that some of the software needed to read the redistricting data has not been delivered. Alexander estimated that preliminary maps might be available for the commission to view this week.
The reapportioning data from the 2020 census was released on August 13. The data shows Maine’s population grew by 2.6% from the 2010 census. As a result of the population growth, approximately 23,000 residents need to be moved from the First Congressional District to the Second Congressional District. The changes will most likely affect residents of Kennebec County. New state legislative districts also need to be drawn.
Currently, the census data is available in a legacy format. The Census Bureau estimates data will be released in a more publicly readable format by September 30. The release of the data was delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, creating problems for the redistricting timeline which is dictated by Maine statute and the state constitution.
The Apportionment Commission petitioned Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court to extend the deadline by which they have to submit their redistricting recommendations to the legislature. Maine’s Constitution requires the commission to submit its redistricting plans to the legislature by June 1 of the year in which apportionment is required.
The Supreme Judicial Court extended this deadline until 45 days after the commission received the reapportioning data from the Census Bureau.
Josh Turley, a public member of the commission chosen to serve by Republican members, estimated that the Republican caucus will have preliminary maps available by the end of next week and potentially available to the public by September 20.
Democratic members of the commission did not have a date by which they expect to have preliminary maps available but were uncomfortable with the idea of not soliciting public comment on redistricting maps until after the commission had negotiated.
The commission adjourned without making a decision or setting a deadline by which preliminary maps should be available.
The commission not only has to draw new maps for Maine’s two congressional districts, but for the state’s Senate, House and county commissioner districts.
The state constitution requires that districts that need to be withdrawn, or new districts that need to be created as a result of reapportionment, be formed of “compact and contiguous territory and crosses political subdivisions the least number of times necessary to establish districts as equally populated as possible.” New districts must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. If the legislature is unable to agree on new maps, the Supreme Judicial Court will make a decision.
The new reapportionment numbers mean Senate districts need to be redrawn, with each district containing just under 39,000 people. New House of Representative districts will need to contain just over 9,000 people each.
The legislature is expected to convene in October to vote on redistricting.