116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - A top Statehouse Republican has suggested the state sue the Census Bureau to get data needed to complete legislative redistricting that the federal agency says won't be available until late September.
The Iowa Legislature is charged with approving new congressional and legislative district maps every 10 years based on census data. However, because of delays due to COVID-19 and changes the Trump administration made, the bureau won't be able to meet its usual timeline for delivering that data.
No decision has been made whether to sue for the data, according to Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and other options are being considered. He did not elaborate.
The Iowa Constitution requires lawmakers to approve a plan by Sept. 1, which will not be possible if, as the Census Bureau has said, the data is not available until Sept. 30. That would be six months later than its original March 31 release date, which previously was pushed out to July 30. In 2011, the Legislature approved new maps April 14.
If the data isn't available until Sept. 30, the Iowa Supreme Court would approve a map before the end of the year. The new map would be used in the 2022 election and until a new map is approved after the 2030 census.
There aren't many good options, Whitver said, and suing the federal government would not be among them, according to legislative Democrats.
'I don't see why we would use state money to sue the Census Bureau to get bad data,” said House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City. 'If we're going to get data, let's get the data that is good data, that is accurate.”
Suing to get bad data 'defies common sense,” Prichard added. 'We certainly don't need to rush to failure by forcing the Census Bureau to give us half-baked data.”
The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee of four members appointed by legislative leaders was supposed to meet Monday for a third time to select a fifth member. However, the meeting was canceled.
Chief among the roles of the committee is conducting public hearings on the proposed legislative maps within 14 days of a plan being submitted to the Legislature. It's not clear how the process would work if redistricting falls to the court.
When the court was involved in the past, the justices sought assistance from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, the same agency that prepares redistricting maps for the Legislature.
While Whitver said it's important for legislators to fulfill their role in the process, some Democrats privately have welcomed the delay as way to prevent Republicans from approving a map favorable to holding its legislative majority. They speculate Republicans will reject the first two plans from the LSA so they can amend the third plan to their advantage before approving.
Republicans control the House 59-41 and the Senate 32-18, as well as the governor's office.
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