Staff Editorial

Gerrymandering disputes are reminder that Iowa is different

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional map on Monday, ruling that its districts had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered.  (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional map on Monday, ruling that its districts had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Numerous state and federal gerrymandering cases are placing the national spotlight once again on Iowa.

David D. Haynes, an editor with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote last weekend: “Tired of elections that don’t seem fair? Maybe Iowa has a better way.”

It’s hardly the first time newspapers elsewhere have pointed to Iowa’s nearly 40-year-old nonpartisan redistricting process as an example of how other states should realign voting districts every 10 years.

“The Iowa model has been successful, with very little opposition, and at a fraction of the cost that we’ve seen in Wisconsin,” the editorial board at the Green Bay Press-Gazette noted last fall. The year before the Madison State Journal said the “remedy for rigged maps is Iowa model for drawing fair voting districts.”

When the Omaha World-Herald called for a 2015 redistricting revamp in Nebraska, they looked to Iowa’s “impressive” system. The Virginian-Pilot also pointed that year to Iowa’s process as “a better method.” Two years earlier, The Boston Globe said similar, labeling the Iowa process “a seemingly revolutionary concept in the high-stakes decennial rite of redistricting.”

Hopefully none of these accolades come as a surprise to Iowans, who have reaped the benefits of generally non-controversial redistricting and competitive legislative and Congressional districts. But with gerrymandering litigation pending in more than eight states, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling this week that partisan gerrymandering violates that state’s constitution, it’s a good time to remember why the Iowa process is exceptional.

After every census, states redraw voting districts. Outside of Iowa, such housekeeping is done by elected officials, and often completed in a way preserves or extends the power of the party that leads the process.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Passed in the early 1980s and signed into law by Gov. Robert Ray, the Iowa method produces maps drawn by the nonpartisans Legislative Services Agency. The aim is to create reasonable districts with equal populations — with agency workers never considering existing lawmakers. So, incumbents have, on several occasions, been forced to move or face off in primaries.

While there are no requirements for competitive districts, the process as well independent voter registrations often result in tight races. As a testament, legislative control swings during elections between redistricting.

Iowa, of course, faces its share of challenges. As the state grows more ethnically and racially diverse, federal rules may require tweaks to our famed redistricting model. A majority party could reject three redistricting attempts by the LSA and take control of the maps, although that, thankfully, has never happened.

Iowans are rightfully proud that their nonpartisan process results in elections won by ideas. As recent litigation makes clear, it’s an national outlier that residents must vigilantly protect.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to TheGazette.com and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or TheGazette.com subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

MORE Staff Editorial ARTICLES TO READ NEXT ...

Since 1993, Congress has passed a bipartisan farm bill every five years. With the next farm bill due before the end of September, lawmakers now are in the thick of heated discussions that will affect all Iowans, agriculture produc ...

Iowa has a comprehensive Energy Plan, crafted under the leadership of Gov. Kim Reynolds while she was lieutenant governor in 2016. And one of its four 'pillars' is 'Energy Efficiency and Conservation.''We will continue to embrace ...

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.