People’s veto threatened if GOP pushes majority vote on redistricting

Illustration credit: Bangor Daily News

Progressives are upping the ante in the ongoing congressional redistricting fight.

On Sunday the Maine People’s Voting Coalition announced that it would support a people’s veto campaign if Augusta Republicans pass their preferred plan with a majority vote during this week’s special legislative session.

Past redistricting plans have either been decided by the courts or a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. However, GOP leaders have indicated that they’ll attempt to pass their preferred plan by circumventing the two-thirds provision.

While Democrats say the courts overseeing the redistricting process will view such a move negatively, GOP leaders believe they’re on sound legal footing.

Enter talk of a people’s veto, which adds a new wrinkle to the partisan maneuvering that has dominated the redistricting process and could be designed to trigger court intervention.

Last month Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, hinted that progressive organizations may attempt a people’s veto following a bipartisan commission’s 7-6 vote to pass the Democrats’ plan. The commission vote was only a temporary victory for Democrats because the GOP, which controls both chambers of the Legislature, said it may pursue its plan through a majority vote.

"If they try to change the law (requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to prevail) we will oppose that every step of the way," Bartlett said.

Unlike the effort to reinstate same-day voter registration, which came together in about eight weeks, it remains to be seen if an organization can mobilize support for a people’s veto on redistricting.

One thing is certain, MPVC won’t be leading such an effort.

MPVC’s Ed Schlick said the group “has neither the membership nor the financial resources to conduct a People’s Veto campaign but would seek to focus attention on the issue and would participate in any coalition formed to exercise the People’s Veto against the Republican redistricting plan.”

Schlick also noted that GOP lawmakers unanimously supported a pending constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote on redistricting plans. Voters have yet to decide on that amendment.

Schlick called the GOP’s sudden move to a majority vote “two faced hypocrisy” and “a discredit to the party and an insult to Maine voters.”