Linn County redistricting plan heads to state for final approval

Supervisors vote 4-1 to move forward with Plan 2

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Plan 2, Linn County’s potential new redistricting map for a three-member Board of Supervisors, is heading to the state for final approval.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 4-1, with Supervisor John Harris opposed — to approve the district plan recommended earlier this year by the county’s temporary redistricting commission.

If approved by the Iowa secretary of state, the new plan — which maps out supervisor districts — will dictate which Linn County Supervisor candidate residents have the opportunity to vote for in future elections. Voters elect a board representative within their respective districts.

Despite previous comments by county staff that a supervisor could only vote for or against a recommended plan based on that proposal’s compliance with state rules, Assistant County Attorney Gary Jarvis on Wednesday said Supervisors could vote based on opinion.

Harris had spoken out against Plan 2 in the past while arguing Plan 3, which included different district boundaries, would better serve rural voters.

“I will not vote in favor of this,” Harris said Wednesday. “I still think there is another plan that favors rural representation more than the current plan that is going to the secretary of state.”

A final plan must be adopted by Feb. 15, per Iowa Code.

Plan 2 divides Cedar Rapids with the south half making up one district and the north half grouped with Hiawatha and Robins into a second district. It places Marion in a third district with the rest of the outlying rural areas and townships of Linn County.

“It’s got a lot of good points to it, I’m supportive of it,” Supervisor Brent Oleson said Wednesday of Plan 2.

Earlier this year, the redistricting committee directed Linn County GIS staff to map out four draft plans that provided different options for a three-district county. Committee members have said all four drafts met state rules for redistricting.

The temporary redistricting commission in October voted 3-2 to recommend Plan 2 to the Board of Supervisors.

Opponents of the plan argued it did not provide enough rural voice on the board, however supporters said it provided the best countywide representation.

The Board of Supervisors is slated to reduce from five members to three at the end of next year, when terms for all five current supervisors expire.

Voters in November 2018 will select three supervisors to form a new board starting in January 2019.

If Plan 2 is adopted and everyone runs for re-election, current supervisors Oleson and Harris may be competing for a seat on the board. Supervisors Stacey Walker and James Houser may have to campaign against each other, as might current supervisor Ben Rogers and potential candidate and current Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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