Fewer fireworks at second Iowa redistricting public hearing

Proposed Iowa districts
Proposed Iowa districts

To Art Heyderman, the popularity of Iowa’s proposed redistricting plan was evident last night in who did not show up for a public hearing in Bettendorf.

He pointed out that the 30 or so people in the audience filled about half of the chairs set up.

“Look around the room,” the Bettendorf resident said. “They’re not here. They’re not angry. Happy people stay home.”

Only eight people spoke at the hearing called by the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission, the second of four scheduled this week across Iowa. The panel is gathering input before issuing a report and recommendation to the state legislature.

The first hearing, held Monday in Council Bluffs, drew plenty of critics. But that wasn’t the case last night — rather, several attendees complimented the panel.

Tom Carnahan of Davenport said he and his wife often argue about politics.

This time, he said, they looked at the new maps and “we didn’t have an argument. They must have done something right.”

The plan didn’t meet with universal approval. The student body president and the dean of students at St. Ambrose University in Davenport told the commission the new map divides the growing campus into two state legislative districts, presenting an obstacle for students. Those living on campus already vote at two polling places.

“Folks just say, ‘If I can’t figure out how to vote, why should I take the trouble to vote?’” said Tim Phillips, the dean of students.

Another member of the audience said he thought the 2nd District stretched too far from east to west. The district runs from Clinton County to Decatur County.

The hearing lasted less than an hour, half the time allotted, contrasting with the hearing in Council Bluffs, where there were more complaints about how the congressional districts were drawn.

“You have to balance that,” said Matt Paul, a commission member.

The hearings are being held to gather public input on proposed new boundaries for congressional and Statehouse districts. The proposal was released last week.

New boundaries are drawn every 10 years to conform to changes in population patterns, which are measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The biggest change for Iowa is that it’s losing a congressional seat.

The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency drew up the proposed districts. Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, both Republicans, were put in the same district, the 4th. Meanwhile, the newly drawn 1st District includes Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, both Democrats. Rep. Leonard Boswell, also a Democrat, is alone in a proposed 3rd District. No incumbent lives in the redrawn 2nd District, although Loebsack has said he intends to run there if the map is approved.

Commission staffers spent some time last night explaining the process under which the maps are drawn — which must be done without political considerations. The districts must be contiguous, compact and as equal as possible in the number of residents. Congressional districts cannot subdivide counties.The House, the Senate or the governor can reject the plan. If they do so, the Legislative Services Agency has 35 days to produce a new one, which, like the first, cannot be amended. If that is rejected, a third option — which can be amended — must be produced in 35 days. If a map isn’t approved by Sept. 1, the state Supreme Court will enter the process.

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