The latest population figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau could push more than 20,000 Maine residents into the more northern and rural of the state’s two congressional districts.
After a long delay, the census released granular population data last week that will be used to redraw legislative and congressional districts.
Overall, the data show Maine added about 34,000 people between 2010 and 2020, but most of them were in Cumberland and York Counties. Seven counties lost population, all seven of them in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
The losses in the 2nd District likely mean that the state’s bipartisan redistricting panel will have to push roughly 25,000 1st District residents into the 2nd District when it redraws the two maps so that both districts each have roughly the same number of people.
Where the panel will end up is unclear, but 10 years ago nearly all of the redistricting negotiations centered on Kennebec County, which ended up with towns split between the 1st District and 2nd District.
Much of the focus will be on the congressional district maps because they’ll determine the electoral battlegrounds for the 2022 midterms. The greater impact might come from legislative redistricting, which is governed by similar apportionment rules and could affect the future balance of power in the Maine Legislature.
Maine’s redistricting process doesn’t lend itself to partisan gerrymandering. That’s because two-thirds of the Legislature must approve the maps and it has been rare in recent years for either party to have a supermajority that would allow them to ram through gerrymandered districts.
Democrats currently have a trifecta, controlling the governor’s office, the Senate and the House. They however, do not have supermajorities in either the House or the Senate.