2014-03-07 / Front Page

South Portland adopts new voting districts

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council on March 3 finalized new borders for the city’s five voting districts, by a 6-0 vote, but a change is coming that will open committee appointments beyond those new lines.

According to City Clerk Sue Mooney, growth on the western side of the city reflected in the 2010 census — that pegged South Portland’s population at 25,002 (up 7.2 percent from 2000) — forced her to redraw districts to equalize representation as closely as possible to 5,000 residents per ward.

Although all city councilors and school board members remained in their current districts following the change, 19 appointees to various boards and committees, as well as one election clerk, were shunted into new wards. The current city ordinance allows those people to continue to serve in their roles for up to six months after redistricting. However, Mooney said Tuesday that the city council is slated to conduct a workshop on potential ordinance changes at some point before the grace period expires.

“I believe the direction of the council will be to remove the residency requirement,” Mooney said.

Under the current rules, 13 of the appointees could have been given open seats in their new districts, or vacant seats assigned to an at-large councilor. However, five appointees, as well as the election clerk, would be forced to resign soon, due to the change of district lines.

Although all registered voters in South Portland may cast ballots in each city council race, five of the seven councilors must reside in a particular district. The other two councilors serve “at-large.” Each elected councilor is then allowed a set number of appointments to boards and committees, with the limitation that nominees reside in his or her district. The proposed ordinance change would allow each councilor to nominate any city resident, provided that no more than three appointees to any one committee reside in the same district.

The change would not apply to the Civil Service Commission, the only appointed board actually mentioned in the city charter, as amending its make-up would require a charter change.

State statute compelled the city to reapportion its voting wards within 12 months of state redistricting, which was completed during the last legislative session.

Maps for the new state house districts and the new city wards are available on the South Portland website, www.southportland.org, as are complete lists of streets affected by the March 3 council vote. Approximately six weeks before the June primaries, postcards will be mailed to all homes moved into new districts, advising which race residents will be voting in, and where their new polling place will be. Those cards will be mailed again before the general election in November. Although some residents will have to cast their ballots someplace new, the city’s six polling places remain the same, said Mooney.

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