PORTLAND – The process for redrawing the boundary between Maine’s two congressional districts would be compressed, and start sooner, under proposals submitted to a panel of federal judges Friday.

The proposals were submitted by the Maine Democratic Party and Cape Elizabeth residents William DeSena and Sandra Dunham, who sued to challenge the state’s current practice for redistricting. A third proposal, submitted by the state, was unavailable late Friday night.

In their lawsuit, DeSena and Dunham argue that the population shift revealed in the 2010 census will dilute their votes if the congressional districts aren’t redrawn to even out the districts’ populations before the 2012 elections.

Under Maine’s current system, redistricting would not be done until 2013. The practice that Maine has used since 1993 calls for its congressional districts and state legislative districts to be redrawn every 10 years.

The lawsuit was filed against Gov. Paul LePage, Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, House Speaker Robert Nutting and Secretary of State Charlie Summers in their official capacities. The Attorney General’s Office is representing them. The Maine Democratic Party, represented by former Attorney General Janet Mills, is an intervenor.

The plaintiffs and the defendants agreed that it would be unconstitutional to go into the 2012 congressional elections with districts based on outdated census data. Mills argued that the integrity of a methodical, bipartisan process is at stake.

The census data released in March shows that the population of the 1st Congressional District — 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.

Under the Democrats’ proposal, a 15-member bipartisan commission would be formed by June 30 and submit a redistricting plan to the Legislature by Aug. 1. If lawmakers could not enact a plan by a two-thirds vote by Sept. 1, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court would step in. The court would complete a plan by Oct. 17.

Under the plan, the roles of the commission, the Legislature and the Supreme Court would be the same as in the current system. But the time frame would change.

In the current system, the commission’s plan is due within 120 days of the Legislature convening. The court takes over the process if lawmakers don’t enact a plan within 130 days of convening. The court comes up with a plan within 60 days, after taking public comment.

In the redistricting plan proposed by DeSena and Dunham, the court would oversee the process and the three parties involved would keep the court informed of the Legislature’s progress in realigning the districts in time for the 2012 elections.

The changes were proposed in response to a ruling last week by a panel of federal judges. The three judges decided unanimously that Maine must redraw the boundaries between its two congressional districts before the 2012 elections.

The judges decided that the most appropriate way to determine how to carry out their ruling was to have each of the three parties submit a proposal. Each will have until the end of Monday to comment on the other plans.

The panel was composed of Judges Bruce Selya, from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, D. Brock Hornby and George Singal.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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