Drawing a line

Bipartisan agreement
By AL DIAMON  |  September 7, 2011

Remain calm.

You've probably heard that a special commission has failed to reach bipartisan agreement on a plan to redraw the boundary between Maine's two congressional districts in order to make their populations as close to equal as possible.

Don't panic.

Instead, ask yourself, "Why should I give the slightest damn about something that seems to have no effect on my life, the lives of those close to me, or even the lives of people I've never met and probably wouldn't like if I did?"

The answer is simple: If you ignore the redistricting debate, you'll miss a prime opportunity to see politicians engaging in displays of twit-brained, pointless hyperbole not to be matched in this decade.

Unless Republican state chairman Charlie Webster tries to write another press release by himself, instead of letting someone familiar with the English language handle it.

The GOP claims the districts need a radical realignment because the "status quo" hasn't worked. Except it has, although not to Republicans' benefit.

Democrats argue the state has to avoid "disruption" from moving voters around. But nobody actually undergoes physical displacement, so who cares?

The fact is that congressional configurations are of no importance to normal people. Just because your town gets shifted from one district to another, there's no change in your employment, your health, your mortgage, your personality, your children's socialization, or your number of Facebook friends. The only thing that might change is who represents you in Congress, and there's a reasonable chance you a) don't know who that is or b) don't care.

For those of you who live in the 1st Congressional District, which is the part of the state where there are still a few jobs, you are represented by Democrat Chellie Pingree. Republicans have attempted to alter the lines to place Pingree's legal residence of North Haven in the 2nd District, a move that would have no effect on her ability to continue in office. Nevertheless, she put out a statement condemning it as "a disruptive plan that gerrymanders."

Democratic US Representative Michael Michaud currently holds the seat for the 2nd District, which includes the parts of the state where most people work off the books. Michaud's supporters called the GOP plan, which moves several thousand Democratic voters out of his territory, "Raye-districting," a reference to the congressman's likely Republican opponent in 2012, state Senate President Kevin Raye.

The GOP line-drawers insist they have no hidden agenda in proposing these changes, a claim so ludicrous that, by comparison, Charlie Webster seems credible. The Dems swear their resistance to change has nothing to do with maintaining their electoral advantage, but they also pretend Libby (19 percent) Mitchell was a great gubernatorial candidate.

Time for a modest infusion of common sense.

First, let's dispense with the ridiculous argument about the districts having to be exactly the same size. Simply put, there's no way to accomplish that, because there's no way to know precisely how many people live in each district. The US Census figures on which these claims are based are already a year out of date and were never accurate down to single figures, anyway. The Republican argument that their plan is better because it comes within one person of equality is downright silly when you consider my friend Nelson, who was part of the 2nd District total because he was skiing at Sugarloaf when the Census worker showed up. Nelson is registered to vote in New Jersey and wouldn't know Michaud or Raye if he sat next to them on a chairlift.

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