April 27, 2011

Federal judges to review redistricting lawsuit

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A federal panel of three judges said in Portland today it plans a swift review of a lawsuit that aims to speed up the redistricting of Maine's congressional districts. If the lawsuit prevails, it would give the Legislature's current Republican majority more influence over the shape of the districts.

Also today, the Maine Democratic Party was granted intervenor status in the case. The Democratic Party opposes the lawsuit, claiming it is an attempt by Republicans to "gerrymander" the state's two districts so that Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, Democrats from North Haven and Millinocket respectively, would be in the same district, forcing one of them out.

The lawsuit – ostensibly against Gov. Paul LePage, Secretary of State Charles Summers and Republican legislative leaders – would require new districts to be be redrawn based on the 2010 census before the 2012 congressional elections. The redistricting is currently scheduled to take place in 2013 in accordance with existing law and the state constitution.

The 2010 census shows that the first congressional district has 668,515 residents and the second district has 659,846.

Plaintiffs William Desena and Sandra Dunham, of Cape Elizabeth, say that as First District voters they are disenfranchised under the U.S. Constitution by having their votes more diluted than those in the Second District.

The judicial panel, including Maine District Court Judges D. Brock Hornby and George Singal and chaired by First Circuit Judge Bruce Selya, has given the parties in the case three weeks to submit legal briefs and would hear oral arguments before the Legislature recesses June 15.


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