Redistricting- The Gerry Meander


Jon Reisman

We live (at least for now) in a republic- a representative democracy. By constitutional, statutory and judicial decree, representation should be apportioned fairly and equitably amongst and within the states, and citizens are guaranteed a republican (meaning representative democracy) form of government. Every ten years the census measures our population, and redistricting efforts commence thereafter in each state to supposedly assure a fair, equitable, compact, contiguous and reasonable reapportionment.
Each state is responsible for redrawing its federal US House districts (an average of 1 per 760,000 residents after the 2020 census) and its state legislative districts. The one person/one vote standard requires that federal and state legislative districts within a state be as close to equal in population as possible. Anti-discrimination laws and precedent require that minority populations be joined/not separated, and past redistricting geographical abuses (known as Gerrymanders) which created bizarrely shaped districts for partisan advantage has resulted in a presumption that districts should be compact, contiguous and respectful of natural and political borders. With the 2020 census results  a bit tardy and the country badly polarized, this has created the Gerry meander, with redistricting proceeding slowly with the next election just over a year away. It is tough to finalize election plans when you do not know what your district is going to look like, or even if you will still be in it.
Downeast legislative redistricting has always started with the federal civil rights mandate requiring that Pleasant Point and Indian Township be in the same district, resulting in a spaghetti thin district hugging the St. Croix.  Ten years ago Eastport was cut off and added to the Machias/Lubec/Cutler district, connected only be water. This time Eastport has been added back in, with Princeton and Charlotte hacked off and Meddybemps added in the middle. The result is a Democratic leaning district that should make incumbent Anne Perry comfortable, but leaves red Calais isolated in the middle of a blue snake.
The Jonesport district represented by termed out Robert Alley  had Machias added and Machias “suburb” Marshfield removed, a change that should make it more blue and less purple. Expect to see candidates from Jonesport and Machias emerge, with the lobster /right whale debacle and the Middle River Dike being big issues.
The central Washington County District stretching from Berry Township up into Penobscot and Hancock Counties, currently represented by Kathy Javner, was hacked up. The new central County District includes the remains of termed out Will Tuell’s district (East Machias, Machiasport, Whiting, Cutler, Lubec) plus Marshfield, Northfield, Berry and Cathance Townships, Cooper, Charlotte, Dennysville, Alexander, Princeton, Crawford, Wesley and assorted williwags. With the exception of Lubec, Machiasport and possibly Northfield, it is a small town red district.
The big issue for these towns (and all of Washington County really) should be the new state goal of 30% public ownership and control, spearheaded by Gov. Mills and climate alarmists. Rep. Javner was able to uncover the fact that 30% of Washington County and 15% of Maine is already under public ownership. In Southern Maine the numbers are all less than 10%. Given current policies, 30% statewide public ownership means that 60-70% of Washington County (mostly the new central district) will be held by the state or state financed land trusts.
I must admit that when the maps first came out I was very tempted to run for the legislature, but tempting as it is, my responsibilities and temperament dictate another course. I hope that a young Republican from one of the small towns will emerge to defend our freedoms and prosperity. If not, I guess I will be badgering Melissa Hinerman about Critical Race Theory, climate alarmism and freedom killing mandates.
Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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