116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa Democratic legislative leaders say they have committed their members to voting for a second version of a plan, released Thursday, that would set congressional and legislative election district boundaries for the next decade.
Their Republican counterparts — who are in the majority in both legislative chambers — pledged to review the plan before the Iowa Legislature meets next week in a special session in light of concerns that led them to reject the first proposal earlier this month.
The plan unveiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency would reconfigure the state’s four congressional districts, creating three potentially competitive districts and a solidly Republican Western Iowa district. Plan 2 also would create 56 Iowa House and Senate districts that would lump in with two or more existing incumbents.
» SEE THE MAPS: Take a closer look at the newest proposed redistricting maps
Based on 2020 presidential election results and Iowa voter registration numbers, Plan 2 appears to give Republicans an advantage when based on past voting.
In the first draft, President Joe Biden would have won in two of the four U.S. House districts. Under Plan 2, former President Donald Trump would have won all four.
However, Iowa voter registration numbers are more nuanced. They show a new 1st District would go from a seven-point gain for Democrats to a two-tenths gain for Republicans. The 2nd District would drop from a five-point GOP gain to just eight-tenths. There would be no change in the 3rd — a 1.7-point gain for Democrats. The GOP gain in the 4th would swing from three points to a 1.7-point gain for Democrats.
Since 1981, Iowa has used a nonpartisan redistricting process that calls for the agency to draw proposed maps without consideration for political ramifications, such as how new district lines would affect individual lawmakers’ re-election chances or the balance of power in the Legislature. If lawmakers reject this second plan, it goes back to the agency for a third try — but at that point also opens the door for politicians to amend it.
Legislators shouldn't be swayed by political considerations, House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said.
“There are a lot of political implications and fallout from the map for both sides,” Konfrst said, “but because this map was fairly drawn and was drawn using a fair process, that’s really our only consideration. As with the first map, I’m going to put politics aside and vote for this fair, nonpartisan map.”
House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Republicans will review the plan “to ensure it is a fair map for the people of Iowa,” while Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, will judge it on its “adherence to the criteria established in Iowa law.”
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the second map “is fair and it meets the legal and constitutional requirements.”
Lawmakers will meet Oct. 28 to make a decision on accepting this second plan. This year is not the first time legislators rejected an initial proposal. In 1981, legislators rejected the first two plans before approving the third without modification. In 1991 and 2001, the first plans were adopted, And in 2001, the second plan was adopted.
This second iteration maintains the current Linn-Johnson county split. It would put Linn in a 22-county northeast Iowa 2nd District. GOP U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson would be the incumbent with Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis challenging her.
Johnson County would be a 20-county southeast Iowa 1st District that includes Scott County. There is no incumbent currently living in that proposed district.
The 3rd District, which would include Polk County and Des Moines’ western suburbs, would extend to the Missouri border to encompass 21 counties. Both Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne live in the proposed 3rd. Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra would be the lone incumbent in the 4th District.
The initial plan from the agency was rejected by majority Senate Republicans on a party-line vote Oct. 5, sending legal and data analysts back to the drawing board — or mapping software — to create a second map that more closely aligned with the requirements of compactness and population equality in state law and the Iowa Constitution. As much as possible, districts are supposed to be square, rectangular or hexagonal so as to avoid irregular-shapes.
That first map included a triangular district, a pyramid and one “so irregular it looks like the 1800s salamander known for gerrymandering,” according to Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said when urging his colleagues to reject that plan. Of particular concern to Republicans was a “figure-eight” Senate district that encircled Cedar Rapids and partially surrounded Iowa City and two smaller Johnson County Senate districts.
The second effort did make some improvements on Senate Republicans’ concerns about compactness. The congressional districts have an average length-width compactness of 31.03 miles compared with 34.96 in the first map. The population differences between the congressional districts is slightly smaller — a difference of 94 people from the smallest to largest district, compared with 99 in the previous plan.
Iowa’s 50 Senate districts also are more compact — the length-width average dropping from 13.31 to 9.98 miles. The population difference rose, however, from 986 to 998.
For the 100 House districts, the population difference fell from 583 to 559 and the length-width average declined from 7.99 to 7.87 miles.
However, the decision to accept or reject the plan will be made by politicians — 100 representatives and 50 senators. Although the map-drawing process is nonpartisan, Republicans, who control the Senate 32-18 and have a 60-40 advantage in the House, will be looking to hold their majority. Democrats, who have not controlled both chambers under the current boundaries, are hoping for a map that has more competitive districts, especially in rural areas.
The second plan would put 20 senators in incumbent vs. incumbent districts — two Democratic on Democratic, five Republican on Republican and three Democratic versus Republican.
Eastern Iowa pairings would include GOP Sens. Dan Zumbach of Ryan and Craig Johnson of Independence, Democratic Kevin Kinney of Oxford and Republican Dawn Driscoll of Williamsburg, Democratic Sen. Jim Lykam and Republican Sen. Smith, both of Davenport, and Democrats Mathis of Hiawatha and Todd Taylor of Cedar Rapids. Mathis, however, previously announced she’s running for the U.S. House.
In the House, it appears there could be 36 incumbent pairings, all but three involving two or more Republicans. The Democratic matchups would include Davenport Reps. Cindy Winckler and Monica Kurth, Cedar Rapids Reps. Molly Donahue and Eric Gjerde, and Waterloo Reps. Timi Brown-Powers and Ras Smith, who is seeking his party’s nomination for governor.
Other Eastern Iowa matchups would pair GOP Reps. Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton and Ross Paustian of Walcott, Lee Hein of Monticello and Steve Bradley of Cascade, Joe Mitchell of Mount Pleasant and Jeff Shipley of Birmingham, and Dean Fisher of Montour and Dave Maxwell of Gibson.
The 56 incumbent pairings is slightly less than in the previous map, but still a concern for Republicans. As rural population has dropped in 68 of 99 counties, according to the 2020 census, the districts they represent have expanded geographically.
It is not unusual for redistricting to trigger turnover as some incumbents choose to retire and others lose primary elections. In some cases, lawmakers move to maintain a residence in a district
Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report
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