Redistricting maps propose significant changes

·3 min read

Sep. 16—OTTUMWA — Maps showing the first redistricting plan for Iowa would drastically alter U.S. House congressional districts for next year.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency on Thursday made public its proposed maps to redistrict the state's four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the state's 50 senate and 100 house districts.

The process is part of the once-a-decade census, and is occurring a little later due to delays with COVID-19. The public now has a chance to comment on the maps during public hearings next week.

The Iowa Legislature cannot itself draw maps under Iowa law, but it has the ability to vote to send them back to the services agency to redraw them. The legislature can begin offering amendments and make changes to the maps in the third round.

The proposed maps would make drastic changes across the state to realign districts with current population numbers. Most significantly would be a complete restructuring of the federal congressional districts.

Iowa will still have four districts, but no longer will they be neatly aligned into corners of the state. Instead, the northwest half of the state would contain District 4, which is represented by freshman Republican Randy Feenstra, with the remaining three districts wedged into the southeast half of the state.

Iowa's second congressional district, currently held by Ottumwa Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, would change drastically to no longer include Iowa City, and stretch all the way to Iowa's borders with Wisconsin and Minnesota. Wapello and Jefferson counties are included in the second district.

Appanoose, Davis and Monroe counties would be sent toward the third district, which includes all of Polk County and Des Moines. The district is currently represented by Democrat Cindy Axne.

Van Buren County would be in the first district, which includes Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Clinton and Davenport. Freshman Republican Ashley Hinson currently holds the seat.

The Iowa redistricting process is heralded by many as the gold standard in the nation. When the nonpartisan agency draws the maps, it considers population equality and works within various Iowa laws.

For example, the law requires that congressional districts only include whole counties; one county can not be split into two separate districts. Iowa Code mandates that all districts, both for the state and federal level, should be as compact as possible.

The agency can not legally consider issues such as where incumbents live, political affiliations or registered voters, any demographic information other than head counts, or past election results.

All four districts are somewhere in the range of 797,500 in population. The smallest district would be the second district at 797,556 and the largest would be the first district at 797,655.

Democrats and liberal groups immediately hailed the proposed plan.

State House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said she plans to vote yes at the Legislature's special session on Oct. 5.

Progress Iowa's executive director Matt Sinovic said it was crucial that the "Republican-controlled legislature respect their constituents, resist political gerrymandering, and adopt the maps prepared by the LSA to ensure Iowa's districts are fair and non-discriminatory."

Immediate response from the Republicans seemed neutral. Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley called Iowa's redistricting process among the fairest in the nation, but didn't state which direction he would vote.

"We will do our due diligence and review it thoroughly to ensure it is a fair set of maps for the people of Iowa," he said.

Members of the public can review the proposed maps, offer written comments and sign up to attend one of the three public hearings at legis.iowa.gov.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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