Rethinking congressional districts: Let’s get vertical

You would think, after listening to the Democrats scream bloody murder at the unveiling of theRepublican congressional redistricting plan, that it represented some kind of unprecedented power grab, intended to crush the Democratic party forever.

I suppose I can understand this reaction. The phony outrage is in line with just about everything else that has come out of the Democratic Party since they were relegated to the minority in 2010. It has been decades since they have had to learn how not to be in power, so they can be forgiven for getting a tad hyperbolic at times.

That said, most of their arguments against the GOP’s redistricting plan fall flat.

The first, and silliest, criticism is that the Republican plan is an attempt to shut Chellie Pingree out of Congress by moving her home into Mike Michaud’s district.

While it is true that Pingree’s residence will now be in the 2nd District, the false indignation from the Democrats ignores a couple very important points.

Pingree owns another home in Portland, so she can very easily switch her main residence to that home and immediately be considered a 1st District resident again. More importantly, Pingree doesn’t have to live in the 1st District anyway. Representatives are only required to live in the state that their district lies within, they do not have to actually live in the district itself. Florida Rep. Allen West, for instance, actually lives in Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s district.

Republicans couldn’t keep her from representing the 1st District if they tried. So much for that argument.

We also hear an awful lot about moving voters from one congressional district to another. Yes, the Republican plan does that. As it should.

Democrats have made a big deal out of the fact that the current orientation of the districts hasn’t changed in decades. That’s true, but what they fail to mention is how incredibly gerrymandered the district already is, in favor of the Democrats. The current map has been the product of 40 years of Democratic state legislatures and courts that drew, then maintained, the most favorable map possible.

As the line was drawn more favorably to the Democrats, they did essentially what they are accusing the Republicans of doing now. You know what they say about glass houses.

Oh, and about that supposedly underhanded attempt to make the 2nd District more Republican? It is worth noting that what the Republicans came up with was hardly that shocking. It would have been very easy to draw a 2nd District that was considerably more Republican than what was done. Simply drawing a line that followed the heavily Democratic coastal towns as much as possible would have produced a significantly more gerrymandered district.

The 2nd District drawn by Republicans put essentially the same number of Republicans and Democrats inside the line, with unenrolled voters outnumbering them both. That is hardly my idea of some kind of unfair, lopsided political move.

Contrary to the crocodile tears of the Democratic Party, the Republican plan has a lot of advantages. It creates a deviation of only one person between the two districts, and the east-west division reorients the representation of the state in important ways.

Under the current division, coastal liberals were almost entirely in the 1st District, and culturally conservative Franco voters were almost entirely in the 2nd. Now, both of Maine’s representatives would have an opportunity to represent a broader cross-section of voters as those communities are spread more evenly between the two.

Why is this important? It would immediately help change the concept of “two Maines,” because both congressional representatives will have a more statewide point of view.

But no matter what the line ends up being, let’s be real here. This isn’t Illinois’ 4th Congressional District we are talking about here, widely considered to be the most classic case of gerrymandering in America.

It is a simple line. No matter how it is drawn, the voters within the district will have the ability to choose who represents them, and everything will be just fine.

This column originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News, where Gagnon servers as a conservative columnist.  His columns appear every Friday.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, a Hampden native, is a Republican political operative. He serves as the Director of Digital Strategy for the Republican Governors Association, and has previously worked for Senator Susan Collins and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.