The Maine Legislature on Wednesday approved a fair and reasonable redistricting plan with sweeping, bipartisan votes.

Lawmaking should work that way more often. As Congress struggles to pass legislation addressing some of our most urgent problems, it’s worth spending a moment on why it doesn’t.

After two months of work, right up to a judge’s deadline, Maine’s bipartisan Apportionment Commission came forward with a recommendation on new boundaries for electoral districts, and it was approved overwhelmingly: 110-10 in the House of Representatives and 35-0 in the Senate.

It’s a much better process than in most other states, where redistricting is controlled by the majority party, allowing it to draw districts favorable to keeping them in power, disenfranchising residents as they go.

As Maine shows, it’s important that districts be drawn so that the people elected align closely with the overall voting patterns of the state. Otherwise, representation suffers, and elected officials can become too insulated from voters.

But there are also lessons in Maine’s way of redistricting that apply to legislating more generally.


In Maine’s redistricting process, there’s every incentive to make a deal. The final plan needs a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for approval – it needs to earn votes from both Democrats and Republicans to pass.

More important, there is nothing to be gained by failing to reach an agreement. If the Legislature cannot agree on a new electoral map, it goes to the Supreme Judicial Court, taking the matter out of the hands of incumbent legislators who have every reason to keep their districts intact.

Fortunately, that’s largely the outcome as required by the state constitution. It’s a complex process full of politics, but because both parties are forced to argue in good faith, ultimately it produces a map that closely reflects the electorate.

Now consider Congress, where Democrats are attempting to address a number of crises but are getting no help from Republicans.

Republicans have refused to give any votes toward raising the country’s debt ceiling, a largely perfunctory act they’ve had no problem doing before. They feel safe doing nothing, at great risk to the national economy, because they believe the blame for any crisis will be directed at President Biden and the majority Democrats.

For the same reasons, they are refusing to provide any support at all for Biden’s plan to address the severe problems the country is facing with housing, climate change, the care industry and the workforce at large.


Any honest list of our country’s problems have those things at the top. You can disagree with the proposed solutions or the overall price tag, but elected officials shouldn’t be able to just ignore them.

And Republicans aren’t just ignoring them. Rather than negotiating a deal with Democrats, they’re actively cheering for them to fail.

Because of rural-friendly structure of the Senate and the long history of gerrymandering in House districts, as well as our political polarization, Republicans likely won’t suffer for their failure to offer anything of substance on our country’s largest problems. In many cases, they will be rewarded for it.

Meanwhile, families will continue to pay too much for a roof over their head, if they can find one at all. They’ll pay too much for care for their kids and older parents, if it’s at all available. The country will once again fail to lead on the climate crisis, even as we can see clearly how it is already trending toward catastrophe.

There are urgent problems, and we have to do something to address them. But right now, for too many elected officials, it makes more sense to do nothing.

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