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Citizens sue Maine to force faster redistricting

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March 31, 2011

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Portland, MAINE:Maine has joined the redistricting fray with its first lawsuit related to last year's Census and the on-going process of redrawing political maps, a lawsuit that seeks to force the state to speed up the timetable.[1]

The state is nearly unique in that it will not take up redistricting until 2013; only Montana also uses such a schedule, and given that Montana has a single at-large seat in the U.S. House, it's less of an issue there.

Maine however, has seen internal population migrations that mean her two Congressional seats are no longer in balance. Under the current plan to hold off on tackling new maps until 2013, the state will knowingly hold the 2012 elections with disproportionate populations.

Specifically, Maine's 4.2% population growth was not consistent. A relatively small area near the New Hampshire border grew the fastest, while areas at the state's extreme northern end lost population. Thus, Congressional elections held without reconfiguring districts will mean the voting power of southern Mainers would be diluted

In an attempt to prevent that, two residents of the state's south have filed a lawsuit, Desena v State of Maine, 1-11-cv-00117, in federal court seeking to force the state to move up Congressional redistricting. Constitutionally, Maine can't take up state levels maps for the House and Senate until 2013 and, under statutory law, the Congressional process is held over so that all work is done at once.

However, the U.S. Constitution holds the “one man, one vote” principle, and most legal experts say Maine's state law and state Constitution would be no match for the federal document in a U.S. Court, leading to some surprise that it's taken this long for someone to bring a suit.[2] The Constitution, in Article IV, sets state level redistricting in occur in 1983 and every tenth year thereafter. State law, specifically Title 21-A M.R.S.A, mandates that Congressional mapping take place in 1993 and every tenth year thereafter.

While to two individuals who have brought suit are using the "one man, one vote" argument, they are also asking why the state intends to wait nearly two years after having full Census data to begin working on maps at all.

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