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JOHNSTON — Political considerations — such as whether current lawmakers would have to square off against each other in the next election — should not influence state lawmakers’ votes on proposed new political boundaries in Iowa, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said Friday.
Lawmakers who will vote on the proposed maps should worry only about the geographic and demographic fairness of the proposals, not the political fallout, Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said during taping of “Iowa Press.”
“It continues to be talked about, ‘Who is going to keep what majorities and who is thrown in together?’ And I remind Iowans that that’s not really what you weigh the criteria on,” he said. “You want to make sure that you’re keeping counties together, that there is equal representation.”
Iowa’s redistricting process, undertaken every 10 years when new census numbers are available, is widely praised for its bipartisan nature.
Unlike other states where partisan, elected officials propose the new maps, Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency draws mas, and lawmakers vote whether to approve or reject the maps. The maps must be as close in population as possible to ensure equal representation.
This year’s redistricting process has been delayed by late-arriving federal census data. The first maps were published Sept. 16, and state lawmakers will convene for a special session Oct. 5 to debate and vote on the maps.
If the maps are rejected, the Legislative Services Agency will redraw and present a second proposal, where the process will be repeated.
Grassley did not say whether he expects the first proposal to be approved.
“I think we’re getting positive feedback from members as they talk to their constituents,” Grassley said. “You just want to make sure, you try to keep areas of the state that have some things in common geographically together.
“You don’t want to have a district that spreads across and geographically just doesn’t fit whatsoever. And I think those are some of the things that we’re working through right now.”
Grassley was asked what he would say to national Republicans or Iowa Republicans currently in federal office or running for federal office who may not like the first proposal’s new congressional districts.
The proposal would make Eastern Iowa’s 1st District — currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson — significantly more Democratic-leaning. Eastern Iowa’s 2nd District, now represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette MIller-Meeks, would become more Republican.
Grassley said that population shifts in Iowa — mainly people leaving rural areas and moving to urban and suburban regions — is one reason the proposed maps are significantly changing many federal and state-level political districts. And again, he downplayed partisan motives for voting on the proposed maps.
“To draw a map in this state with the way the population shifts have been made, I don’t think you necessarily have an unfair map by any means for either party necessarily,” Grassley said.
“And that really you should not be passing a map based purely on political motives. That is not one of the criteria that we’re supposed to follow,” he said. “I know some people on both sides don’t like parts of it. But really you have to look (at) the things laid out in the (state law) and what the expectations of the Legislature is.”
Grassley also is not inclined to have lawmakers consider other bills during the special session, such as ones on abortion or vaccine and mask mandates.
While he did not rule out consideration of other bills, Grassley said he wants the focus to be on redistricting and for the special session to be as brief as possible.
“My expectation at this point is to focus on the map,” he said. “We’re already, what, six, eight months behind where we usually would have done this during last session. We need to get this process in motion, not just for Republicans or for Democrats, but for Iowans.
“It’s hard to reach consensus necessarily on what that fix could be (for vaccine mandates), especially in hopefully a very short special session,” he said. “And what I would tell Iowans or the members is we’re only a couple of months away from coming back into full session where we can really have the time to properly vet anything that we do.”
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What: House Speaker Pat Grassley on “Iowa Press”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday on Iowa PBS; 8:30 a.m. Saturday on Iowa PBS World