Uncertainty awaits in Iowa's redistricting process

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January 19, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

DES MOINES, Iowa: As the Hawkeye State awaits the redistricting process, comes the uncertainty that comes from Iowa's nonpartisan process. Iowa is different from other states as the Legislative Service Agency redraws the maps subject to approval of the General Assembly and the Governor.

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Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal said that the process of lawmakers losing their seats through no fault of their own: “probably makes people a little nervous.” Gronstal feels that the uncertain future lawmakers face will not detract them from their work. The Majority Leader said: “in the end we've got a job to do and we'll do that job.” Ed Cook, Senior Counsel for the Legislative Service Agency, feels that the uncertainty to redistricting is: "Iowa's version of term limits."[1]

Despite Iowa had population gains in the 2010 Census, they will be losing a congressional seat. With all the congressional districts needing to be redrawn, this will add uncertainty to how the new map will look. As the Legislative Service Agency can only use population data to redraw the districts, this could give Eastern Iowa more representation to Congress while Western Iowa could lose out. The state has seen its population grow during the 2010 Census in Iowa City and Des Moines, which is in the Eastern region.[2]

Since the current redistricting process was enacted in 1980, Iowa has not experienced the gridlock that other states have faced with redistricting. Lawmakers can only accept or reject a redistricting plan that comes from the Legislative Service Agency. If a plan gets rejected by the General Assembly or the Governor, the LSA will redraw a new map for approval. The success of the nonpartisan redistricting plan can be traced to the LSA not being forced by lawmakers to present more than two redistricting proposals as a result of being rejected.[3]

The Legislative Service Agency is required to present its first maps to the General Assembly by April 1, 2011. Governor Terry Branstad must sign a redistricting plan into law by September 15, 2011.