116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowans have started weighing in on a plan to redraw the lines of the state’s congressional and legislative boundaries and, for the most part, they like it — or at least the process.
Speakers who participated in a virtual public hearing Monday evening on the proposed redrawing of Iowa congressional and legislative districts had little to say about the plan. Rather they praised the nonpartisan redistricting that many called a model for the once-a-decade process carried out in all 50 states.
“You know, we have heard plenty about gerrymandering in both red states and blue states, and I'm pleased, as a citizen, that we do this the right way,” Ryan Crane of Des Moines said during the hearing that was followed by more than 120 people. “Just really encouraging folks not to turn this into a partisan matter, not to go political with this, not to kind of blow up the process.”
After 32 minutes, the five-member Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission adjourned the hearing, which was scheduled for two hours, because there were no more speakers. Iowans will have two more opportunities to speak to the commission from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday and 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Comments also may be submitted through the Legislature’s website.
Nancy Porter of Iowa City was another one of those who praised the process, but had no comment on the plan.
“I’ve been so proud of Iowa setting a standard for redistricting” by being nonpartisan, she said, adding “it's the right thing to do.”
Speaking to the plan, Michael Tallman of Des Moines liked the plan because it keeps the growing metro area intact. Living in and around Des Moines since he was a child, Tallmann said he’s seen the city and neighboring communities grow and become “a lot more interconnected than maybe it was even 10 years ago or 20 years ago.”
“So that relationship is really cool and seeing a map that kind of reflected that would be really nice to have for the next 10 years,” he said.
The plan was developed by the Legislative Services Agency according to standards laid out in the Iowa Constitution and state law. It ignores political ramifications of redrawing the four U.S. House districts as well as Iowa’s 50 Senate and 100 House districts to reflect population changes in the 2020 census. In this case, the new lines put more than four dozen Iowa House and Senate members in districts with one or more incumbents.
The standards required are population equality, keeping political subdivisions — counties and cities, for example, intact as much as possible, contiguity and compactness. The map meets those requirements, according to people who submitted written comments to the commission ahead of Monday’s hearing.
“I have looked at the redistricting maps and applaud the job the (LSA) has done. These districts are fair and were drawn on a nonpartisan basis,” Diana Wright wrote. “I would like to see them stand as drawn. Keep partisan politics out of our redistricting.”
After the three hearings, the commission will recommend to the Legislature whether or not to approve the map. Lawmakers will meet Oct. 5 to begin consideration of the plan. If lawmakers approve the first plan, it will go to the governor for her signature. If rejected, the LSA will draw another map that again is subject to a yes-or-no vote without any changes. If rejected, the LSA draws a third that can be amended by lawmakers.
The map under consideration should be approved because it’s fair and the best map, Thomas Carsner of Iowa City wrote.
“It is judged by the LSA to be the best map. Iowa deserves the best,” he wrote. “A second or third map would be less than best. Why would we want less than the best?”
However, not everyone liked the first map. Paul Uzel didn’t like Dubuque County being included in a new 2nd District that would stretch from the Iowa-Minnesota border to Fairfield and from the Mississippi River west to Ames.
“Dubuque, while definitely northeast of the rest of the (proposed) 1st District, has much more in common with the 1st District,” he said. “This is particularly true for what Dubuque has in common with Linn and Johnson and Scott and the other Quad City counties. I see Dubuque as the north end of the central Mississippi River district rather than the south end of that area to its north.”
While Uzel sees that proposed 26-county district as a “considerable stretch,” it’s far smaller than the proposed 44-county 4th District that runs from southwest Iowa along the Missouri River and then along the Iowa-Minnesota border as far east as Howard County in northeast Iowa.
The new 12-county 1st District would include Linn, Johnson and Scott counties. A 17-county pyramid-shaped 3rd District would flow from Dallas and Polk on the north to the Missouri border.
Just as the speakers Monday evening were focused more on the process than the plan, many of the comments submitted to the commission didn’t address the plan so much as the process.
“I am proud that Iowa has in place a fair and logical method of redistricting,” Marisue Hartung wrote. “It makes sense to have an impartial body redistrict the state. It makes the process fair and open.”
Before seeing the map, House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said the 41 members of her caucus would vote to approve it. Senate Democrats have indicated they will vote to approve the plan despite misgivings about nearly two dozen incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchups it would create. The plan would put about 40 House members in districts with at least one other incumbent.
Legislative Republicans have not said how they will vote, but have committed to following the Iowa Constitution and state law regarding redistricting.
For more information on redistricting, visit www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/redistricting.
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