Iowa releasing 1st redistricting proposal Thursday
MIKE GLOVER Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa— Iowa's congressional delegation will get their first look at whose seat might be lost in the next election when a proposed new map of legislative and congressional districts is released Thursday.
Census figures show Iowa's population has grown at a slower rate than the rest of the nation and, with just more than 3 million people, it will be allotted four congressional districts rather than its current five. State legislative districts also will change to reflect population shifts.
Nonpartisan legislative staffers will deliver their first proposal for new districts to the Legislature on Thursday morning, after which lawmakers will hold a series of public hearings before voting on the suggestions in mid-April. Lawmakers can't amend the first map but can only vote yes or no.
Along with one less congressional district, the new map also will result in a Legislature that's more urban and suburban, because those areas of the state have gained population flowing out of rural areas.
"All of us will want to look at those maps and where we fit into those maps," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, acknowledged the business of approving new districts is likely to "be a distraction or a diversion for some period of time as we work through it."
Iowa has a unique system for re-drawing districts. The map is prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which is forbidden by law from considering voter registration numbers or where incumbent lawmakers live. The agency is tasked with making the districts as compact and equal in population as possible.
If the first map is rejected, the agency has 35 days to prepare a second map, which also cannot be altered. If that map is rejected, the agency has another 35 days to prepare a third proposed map, which can be altered. The Legislature has until Sept. 1 to approve a new map of legislative and congressional districts, or the Iowa Supreme Court will step in.
Gov. Terry Branstad said the nonpartisan system works in favor of approving the initial plan.
"We have a good system of dealing with that in Iowa, it's a fair and objective system," he said.
Lawmakers approved the third plan in 1981, the first plan in 1991 and the second plan in 2001.
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, said lawmakers need to make decisions based on whether the new districts meet the standard of being compact and equal in population, not how they impact individual lawmakers.
"You don't vote on it based on a handful of people who didn't get the district they wanted," Upmeyer said. "There are always going to be people who are negatively impacted, no matter how many maps you draw. The only thing that changes is who is going to be negatively impacted."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said urging his members to approve the first map, unless there's a compelling reason to reject it.
"We're cautioning our people to keep an open mind and if they are compact and fair we should take it," McCarthy said. "Both parties are going to be helped by the map and hurt by the map."