Radio Address: Sen. Goodall on Congressional Redistricting

Posted: August 25, 2011 | Senator Goodall, Weekly Radio Address

Radio Address: Senator Goodall on Congressional Redistricting

Good morning. This is State Senator Seth Goodall of Richmond.

This summer, a 15 member commission, of which I am a member, began developing a plan to redraw Maine’s two congressional districts. A federal court ordered that the districts be redrawn because U.S. Census data determined that the first District had a larger population than the second. To comply, the bipartisan commission has been working, under a short time frame, to get the job done.

The commission has not been without guidance during this process. The criteria is clear—it is based on our Constitution, state law, and historical precedent. For the last fifty years, our congressional districts have not drastically changed from what they are today or what the Democrats are proposing for the future. And, as further evidence that our districts are free from the influence of gerrymandering, the Maine Supreme Court—an apolitical body—actually drew our current district lines back in 2003.

Earlier this week, the commission convened and presented competing plans for redrawing our congressional districts. The differences between the plans could not have been greater.

Democrats proposed a simple plan—a simple fix to the problem at hand. The Democratic plan disrupts as few Mainers as possible. It meets the criteria under the law. And, it preserves the integrity of the long-standing relationships between Maine communities.

In contrast, the Republican plan is complicated and radical. It appears to be based on what’s best for D.C. political insiders, not Mainers. It displaces more than 360,000 Maine people, moves 139 communities from one district to another—and, disrupts seven counties, including Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Kennebec, and part of Franklin. And, it does so, seemingly, without consideration for the impact this plan will have on Maine people.

We know that in order to come up with a plan that is acceptable to the courts and to the people of Maine, we must set aside partisan politics and get the job done—fairly and according to the law. However, the motivation of the Republican plan appears to be more focused on winning elections instead of representing the best interests of the people in our great state.

The Republican plan has raised eyebrows, even beyond lawmakers and commission members. The press, rightly so, has analyzed and posed some interesting questions. Why is it that the Republican plan puts both Congresswoman Pingree and Congressman Michaud in the same district? And, why shift Maine’s second largest population center, Lewiston/Auburn, to the same district as Portland—Maine’s most densely populated city? Why does the Republican plan shift ten-thousand registered Republicans from the first District to the second?

It just does not need to be this complicated. The criteria in the law is clear. Each district must be as equal as possible in population. And, at the same time, requires that we follow the same geographic boundaries of our towns and counties. Next, we must consider similarities of cultural and economic interests within our state—and try and keep those communities together. So why then does the Republican plan split and divide nearly half of Maine’s counties? The law also clearly instructs us to move as few communities and Mainers as possible. Yet, the Republican plan moves nearly one-quarter of our state’s population to another district.

At the time of this recording, Democrats and Republicans are continuing to negotiate. Over the weekend we will work in good faith to draw up the best plan for the people of Maine and one that addresses concerns voiced by both parties. And, on Tuesday, the commission will reconvene for public comment. Everyone is welcome to attend.

We know that the federal court is watching closely. And, if a plan is not presented in a timely and reasonable fashion, the court will decide. Both parties are obligated to check the political rhetoric at the door and put the best interest of Maine people ahead of anything else. This should not be a politically charged process. Instead, it should be based on law. And anything less erodes the public trust.

This is Senator Seth Goodall. Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.