Plan proposes big changes in Iowa’s congressional districts

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., casts a shadow on an Iowa...
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., casts a shadow on an Iowa state flag as she speaks during a campaign event, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(Patrick Semansky | AP)
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 2:56 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s four congressional districts would include two that lean heavily toward Republicans, one that favors Democrats and one that both parties would have a chance at winning under proposed redistricting maps released Thursday by a nonpartisan agency.

The Legislative Services Agency has redrawn Iowa’s political dividing lines to create a southeastern Iowa 1st Congressional District likely to favor Democrats by placing Linn, Johnson and Scott counties in one district. In south-central Iowa, the 3rd District would slightly lean Democratic thanks to the inclusion of Polk County, the state’s large population base.

Proposed Iowa Congressional redistricting map.
Proposed Iowa Congressional redistricting map.(KCRG)

The new 4th District would grow even larger, increasing from 39 counties to 44 counties, approaching nearly half of Iowa’s 99 counties. It has long been a Republican stronghold and would be even more conservative under the new map.

In northeast Iowa, the proposed 26-county 2nd District would gain Story County, home to Ames, and lean more toward Republicans.

Iowa currently has one Democratic representative and three Republicans.

By state law, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency is responsible for following detailed guidelines to ensure population balance among Iowa’s congressional districts and to prevent political influence in the initial drafting of changes.

The agency’s report said the ideal congressional district population is 797,592 and each of the new districts are close to that, with the 1st District having 63 more people, the 2nd District 36 under, the 3rd eight people under, and the 4th 18 under.

Proposed Iowa Senate redistricting map.
Proposed Iowa Senate redistricting map.(KCRG)

Now that the first map is provided to the Legislature and the public, a five-member Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission has 14 days to hold public hearings to gather comment and prepare a report for the Legislature.

The commission has scheduled virtual hearings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Legislature is scheduled to meet in special session beginning Oct. 5 to consider the first proposal.

Republicans hold a majority in the Legislature so they will have the power to approve or reject the first set of maps.

“Our nonpartisan redistricting process in Iowa is considered one of the fairest in the nation. After months of delays, we now have a proposed set of maps for redistricting in front of the Iowa Legislature. We will do our due diligence and review it thoroughly to ensure it is a fair set of maps for the people of Iowa,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said his caucus is reviewing the plan to ensure it meets all the legal and constitutional requirements for redistricting.

“We believe Iowans deserve a fair redistricting process, without interference from politicians, and without partisan amendments. We encourage Iowans to examine Plan 1 and to make their voices heard at three public hearings next week,” he said.

Proposed Iowa House redistricting map
Proposed Iowa House redistricting map(KCRG)

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said she plans to vote yes on the first set of maps.

If the first maps are rejected, the LSA has 35 days to draw up a second set. Lawmakers again must vote them up or down. If that plan is rejected, the agency again has 35 days to draw a third set. Lawmakers may amend the maps like any other legislation before approving them.

In 2000, the Legislature rejected the first set of maps but approved the second. In 2010, lawmakers approved the first set of maps.

Redistricting is required every 10 years and new lines are to be redrawn based on population changes reflected in the U.S. census.

Redrawing the political lines was complicated this year by a delay in releasing U.S. Census Bureau data blamed on the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Iowa will miss the deadlines mandated by the state constitution. However, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen has signed an order giving the Legislature extra time.

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