AUGUSTA – A top Senate Republican said Friday that her party may use the power of its majority to pass a congressional redistricting plan on Tuesday if talks this weekend fail to produce a compromise with Democrats.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, said she would prefer to put forward a compromise plan for Tuesday’s special legislative session but talks have not progressed. The two parties are having trouble agreeing on the appropriate districts for the Lewiston-Auburn and Waterville-Winslow areas, she said.

“We have very few options unless you want the map to look absolutely ridiculous,” Plowman said.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, the lead negotiator for the Democrats, said he’s willing to keep talking but the bill proposed by Republicans to enable them to pass a plan without Democratic support is troubling.

“The Republicans have signaled that they are able and willing to change the rules in the middle of the game and force through their plan,” he said.

State law now requires two-thirds votes by both chambers of the Legislature to approve a redistricting plan. The Republicans’ bill, L.D. 1590, contains language that would allow a simple majority vote.

Republicans hold a 77-72-1 majority in the House and a 20-14-1 majority in the Senate.

The Republican plan to change the line between Maine’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts is based on an east-west divide that would put Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford and York counties and part of Franklin County in the 1st District. The rest of the state would be in the 2nd District, including Aroostook, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties, along with several Franklin County towns.

It would even out the populations of the two districts so there is just a one-person difference.

Lawmakers were ordered by a panel of federal judges in June to redraw the line between the districts before the 2012 elections because the number of residents in each district differs by more than 8,600, according to 2010 census data.

The Republicans’ plan would move Knox County from the 1st District to the 2nd District, so U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, would no longer live in the district she represents. Members of Congress are not required to live in their districts, but they typically do.

Democrats have proposed three plans to change the districts. One earned narrow approval from a special 15-member redistricting panel in late August, when the one independent voted with the seven Democrats.

Independent Michael Friedman said he supported the Democratic plan because it offered the simplest solution.

That plan would move seven Kennebec County towns from one district to the other to make the population difference between the districts only one person. It would move Gardiner, Vassalboro, Vienna, Rome and Unity Township to the 2nd District, while putting Oakland and Wayne in the 1st District.

The Democrats are advancing their plan in a separate bill, L.D. 1591.

They say the possibility that Republicans will use the power of their majority to push through a plan contradicts votes by Republican lawmakers earlier this year to amend the state Constitution to require redistricting to win two-thirds votes from lawmakers.

The amendment, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, is designed primarily to move the state’s redistricting date in the future so it better coincides with the release of 10-year census data.

Lawmakers are now required by state law, not the Constitution, to approve redistricting changes with two-thirds votes, so a simple sentence in a bill can remove the requirement. If voters approve the constitutional amendment, it will bind future Legislatures to the two-thirds requirement.

If the Legislature cannot agree on a redistricting plan, the decision falls to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Goodall said it is hypocritical for Republicans to have voted in support of a two-thirds requirement earlier this year and now consider allowing a simple majority to get something passed.

Plowman said it’s incumbent on the Legislature to make a decision, and if the Democrats don’t want to compromise, it’s up to Republicans to put forward a plan to the federal court.

“When the court order says come up with a plan and we have nothing but stalemate, we have a duty to move forward,” she said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]