Douglas Rooks, in his profile of the legislative redistricting method employed by Maine (Maine Voices, Aug. 22), demonstrates that the process is influenced, but not corrupted by, partisanship and, therefore, serves as an exemplar to other states.

Missing from the description of Maine’s system was mention of the 15-member advisory commission that proposes redistricting maps to the Legislature. The creation of this commission reflects a balanced, bipartisan approach. The Maine Senate leaders select two members each, while House leadership selects three each. Each state party chair selects one member. Those cumulative 12 nominees select two “public” commissioners who, together, chose the final, 15th member.

While the Maine system has been effective, improvements can always be suggested. The largest group of voters in Maine, those registered as unenrolled in a party, should be assured representation on the commission. Also, more effort is needed to keep small municipalities in the same legislative district. (Recent redistrictings have divided my hometown of 4,400 into separate House districts.)

Whether, as Mr. Rooks contends, the Maine method is superior to the independent commission systems used by California, Arizona and New Jersey is debatable. To make such a claim, longitudinal studies providing empirical evidence regarding competitive races, voter turnout and seat turnover would have to be conducted.

Nevertheless, as Mr. Rooks points out, Maine’s system is influenced, but not dominated, by partisan interest. The question is how well this basically cooperative approach will survive the anticipated fevered partisan atmosphere that may well infect elections in 2020.

Will partisan impulses be restrained? Will ballot clerks and poll watchers continue to greet voters with a “hello” and questions about their neighbors’ family and health? Or will voters be subject to a pointed interrogation during which documentary evidence of citizenship and residence be demanded of them?

Joe Wagner


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