June 20, 2011

State seeks Dec. 1 deadline for redistricting plan

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — State officials have proposed an accelerated schedule to redraw the line between Maine's two congressional districts in response to a lawsuit over redistricting.

Under the proposal, the state faces a Dec.1 deadline to adopt a new redistricting plan. The panel of federal judges in the lawsuit would step in to create a plan by Jan. 1 if the state doesn't meet its deadline.

The federal judges decided this month that Maine must redraw the boundaries between the congressional districts before the 2012 elections. The suit was filed by two Cape Elizabeth residents who argued that their votes would be diluted if the districts weren't redrawn to reflect the population shift to the south seen in the 2010 census. Under Maine's current practice, the line wouldn't be redrawn until 2013.

The suit was filed against Gov. Paul LePage, Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, House Speaker Robert Nutting and Secretary of State Charles Summers in their official capacity. They are represented by the Attorney General's Office, which agreed with the plaintiffs that the current system would be unconstitutional. The Maine Democratic Party is an intervenor and is represented by former Attorney General Janet Mills.

The judges had instructed the parties to submit their plans by Friday. State officials had their document ready Friday afternoon but made a mistake in submitting it electronically.

The Democrats' plan called for a stepped up schedule, with the 15-member bipartisan commission convening no later than June 30 and submitting its proposal by Aug. 1 The Legislature faced a Sept. 1 deadline and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court would step in if it failed to enact a plan in time.

The plaintiffs suggested that the federal court would oversee the process and the three parties would keep it informed of the Legislature's progress.

The parties have until the end of today to make any comments on the other plans.

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