Originally published in Compass, June 13, 2013
Legislative redistricting draws new lines for some Peninsula residents
by Faith DeAmbrose
While you might not feel as if you have moved, if you live in Brooklin, Penobscot or Isle au Haut you have. Well, in terms of districts, that is. With the Maine Senate and House of Representatives recently passing LD 1557, An Act to Reapportion the Districts of the State Senate, State House of Representatives and County Commissioners, the lines that form the various districts will soon be redrawn.
There will be no local changes to the County Commissioner assignments for District one and two of Hancock County, which cover the 10 Penobscot Bay Press coverage towns. According to the Maine Constitution, redistricting must be done every 10 years. The redistricting still needs approval by at least a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate by June 11, and then a signature from Governor Paul LePage.
The districts currently in place will remain that way until “the seating of the 127th Legislature in December 2014,” explained House District 37 Representative Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville). Chapman whose District 37 currently consists of Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Surry will see a slightly changed district in 2014, losing Penobscot to a newly formed district and gaining Brooklin from District 36.
Representative Walter Kumiega, who will lose the town of Brooklin from his coverage area, will pick up Southwest Harbor and the Cranberry Isles. He believes that “for practical purposes Brooklin and Sedgwick should be in the same district.” The change means that Kumiega will represent a district that has no mainland towns and more islands than any senate district. The district “now includes six island municipalities and seven year-round inhabited islands,” explained Kumiega, adding “I believe no other House district has more than two, no Senate district more than two.”
Voters will also see a change (as is traditional with every reapportionment) to the district numbers as well. For instance, Chapman’s District 37 will become District 133 in 2014.
Residents of Penobscot may arguably have the largest change of all the Penobscot Bay Press coverage towns as it leaves neighboring Castine, Blue Hill, Brooksville, Sedgwick and Surry and is grouped in with the Hancock County towns of Dedham, Orland, Otis and Verona Island and the Waldo County towns of Prospect and Stockton Springs to create a new district. This district currently has no incumbent, meaning that one will need to be elected during the General Election of November 2014.
The island of Isle au Haut will leave current Senate District 28 to join Senate District 12, which will consist of 18 Knox County towns including Camden, Rockland, St. George, North Haven and Vinalhaven.
In speaking to the process of drafting the apportionment legislation, both Representative Kumiega, a Deer Isle Democrat, and Senator Brian Langley, an Ellsworth Republican, said they felt their respective parties did a good job at reaching consensus and keeping the matter from progressing to the court house. “The work was done in a bipartisan fashion and garnered a unanimous vote. In many previous efforts to redistrict, consensus was not reached and it went to court,” said Langley.
While Chapman says he is okay with the changes to the district he represents, the overall process of reapportionment, especially in this go-around, is problematic in that the work to create “safe” districts for one party or another, actually undermines the election process by creating a “systematic bias” in the overall process. He said that the sophistication of voter data collection exacerbates this bias.
“The current redistricting has created safer districts both through the systemic biases in the process and through the deliberate intention of the parties,” wrote Chapman in a recent email. “The Democrats believe that they have created 73 safe House districts for Democrats. A majority in the House is 76, so the Democrats think they only need to win three toss-up Districts to be assured of retaining their majority in the 127th.”
Chapman said the difficulty created by safer districts is the “tendency toward disenfranchisement of un-enrolled voters who cannot participate in the increasingly important primaries,” adding that “reapportionment has resulted in a losing situation for the integrity of our electoral process by further diminishing the effectiveness of one-third of our voters, those that are unenrolled.”
Local House and Senate Districts as of December 2014
House District 131
Dedham, Orland, Otis, Penobscot, Verona Island and two other towns in Waldo County
House District 133 (formally 37)
Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick, Surry
House District 134 (formally 36)
Deer Isle, Stonington, Isle au Haut, six other towns in Hancock county and two other towns in Knox County
Senate District 7 (formally 28)
Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Deer Isle, Sedgwick, Stonington, Surry and 22 other towns in Hancock County
Senate District 8 (formally 31)
Castine, Penobscot and seven other towns in Hancock County
Senate District 12
Isle au Haut and 18 other towns in Knox County
Hancock County Commissioner Districts
Blue Hill, Surry, 16 other towns in Hancock County
Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Deer Isle, Penobscot, Sedgwick, Stonington, four other towns in Hancock County
Knox County Commissioner Districts
Isle au Haut, 9 other towns in Knox County