Iowa begins responding to first redistricting map proposal

(The Center Square) – Public hearings are underway for the first proposed redistricting plan for Iowa.

The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission drafted a plan that includes 12 Senate and 25 House districts within each congressional district and two Senate districts (District 7 and District 47) within two congressional districts. If legislators approve the map, these districts will become effective with the 2022 elections for the 90th General Assembly.

“If the current maps are adopted, the new Iowa House maps would pit 14 Republican incumbents against one other – resulting in various Republican primary elections,” Iowa State Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, said in an e-newsletter The Center Square received Sept. 21. “The maps would also put 4 Democratic incumbents against each other, as well as a district that contains both a Democrat and a Republican.”

The majority of those who commented on the Iowa legislature’s website regarding the maps praised them and the process. Those comments can be seen here for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission’s final public hearing for this plan is set for tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The commission is scheduled to discuss its report at its next meeting, to be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 23. Iowa legislators will begin discussing the plan in a special session that starts Oct. 5.

State legislators can reject the first proposal during the special session, forcing the commission to create a second round of maps for a second vote from lawmakers. They can reject a second set as well. The only amendments in these rounds that are permitted are to correct errors in the plan. If lawmakers reject the second set, they must approve the commission’s third proposal, though they would be able to amend the maps like any other bill.

Incumbent senators from even-numbered districts who reside in newly created even-number districts that do not currently have senators can serve until January 2025 without an election in 2022, according to Iowa law, an Iowa legislative document said. Incumbent senators’ new districts (that did not have an incumbent senator) were given odd or even numbers based on whether the senator’s current district’s number was odd or even.

Iowa has 3,190,369 residents as of April 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau discovered, so the ideal population for each of the four congressional districts is 797,592 persons, the document said. The ideal population size is 63,807 persons per state Senate district and 31,904 persons per state House of Representatives district, the document said.

According to Iowa law, each congressional district must have a population as close as possible to its respective ideal populations. The divisions need to avoid dividing cities and counties. Districts must be contiguous and “reasonably compact” (square, rectangular or hexagonal, not irregularly shaped). When there is a choice between dividing local political subdivisions, the more populous subdivisions shall be divided before the less populous, unless the district boundary lies along a county line which passes through a city in multiple counties. Districts cannot “be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.”

Each state representative district must be within a single state senatorial district and “so far as possible, each representative and each senatorial district shall be included within a single congressional district.” The commission cannot rely on any political affiliations, election results, addresses of legislators, or demographic information except for population head counts “except as required by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

Since this process was established in 1980, legislators’ actions were as follows:

– 1981: Enacted the Legislative Service Bureau’s third plan, without amendment

– 1991: Enacted the Bureau’s first plan

– 2001: Enacted the Bureau’s second plan

None of the plans have been challenged in court.

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