State parameters could limit Linn County redistricting options

Commission to determine new districts

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The five-member commission tasked with mapping out a new three-district Linn County will have limited wiggle room when it comes to how those districts will be laid out.

Linn County’s temporary redistricting commission met for the first time on Friday. The group is tasked with dividing the county into three districts for future Linn County Board of Supervisors elections now that the board is slated to reduce from five members to three.

But Iowa code lays out several requirements the commission must follow. Commission members were appointed earlier this year by the board and include Cindy Golding, Ray Dochterman, Sarah Halbrook, Dave Machachek and Nate Willems.

“It seems there’s only a few scenarios that might work with the parameters that we’re given,” said Golding.

Some of those requirements include:

• The commission will use 2010 census data to draft districts.

• Districts must be of similar populations, with an allowed variance of about 700 people. The ideal district size will be a little more than 70,000 people.

• Cities can be divided only if their population is larger than the ideal district size — only Cedar Rapids fits that criteria — and cities that are split must be into the smallest possible number of districts.

• Districts must be as compact and contiguous as possible.

• Districts cannot be drawn to favor political parties, people or groups.

Assistant County Attorney Gary Jarvis said Friday it’s his understanding those rules mean one district must be made up entirely by Cedar Rapids, with the city making up about 55,000 residents in a second district.

Marion — which has about 35,000 residents — is too big to fit into the second district and too small to be divided. It would end up in the third district.

Hiawatha and the remaining communities, townships and unincorporated residents would end up in the second and third districts.

The commission also on Friday voted unanimously to have Linn County’s Geographic Information System division draft three or four sample maps to start discussions.

“That would give us a starting point,” Machachek said.

The commission will meet again at 9 a.m., Sept. 8.

Earlier this month, more than 71 percent of Linn County voters chose to stay with the county’s current representation plan, which has supervisors living within specific districts and elected by the residents of those respective districts.

While the representation plan remains unchanged, the board will to drop from five members to three in 2019, following last November’s vote.

The board must approve a final plan by Feb. 15 of next year, per Iowa Code. The Iowa Secretary of State must give final approval of the plan.

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

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