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Iowa Legislature Moves to Plan 2 After First Maps Rejected

(Radio Iowa) The Iowa Legislature awaits a second plan for redistricting after Tuesday’s rejection of the first set of maps for Iowa’s congressional and legislative districts. The House did not take a vote after all 32 Republicans in the Senate voted down the plan. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, says state law has guidelines requiring the population count to vary by less than one percent from district to district, and for the districts to be as geographically compact as possible.

“There were some positive aspects, but there were also some areas that we had some concerns — specifically the compactness of some districts and the population deviation of some districts,” Whitver says, “and so that’s why we voted to turn down map one and move on to map two.” Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls (like “walls”) of Coralville is among the 18 Democrats who voted for the plan.

“Republicans have kind of a laundry list of statistical things they mentioned, but I want to be very clear: this map was squarely in line with the plans that Iowa legislatures have approved in the past,” Wahls says. The boundaries for Iowa congressional districts, as well as legislative districts, are redrawn every 10 years to account for population changes identified in the Census, The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency submits proposed maps to lawmakers. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst (CON-first), a Democrat from Windsor Heights, says she’s hoping and expecting Republicans will approve the second redistricting plan.

“Republicans should stop playing politics and accept the second non-partisan map without amendment,” she says, “to guarantee Iowa’s gold standard for fair representation continues.” Wahls says he suspects Republicans are aiming to get to the third and final set of maps — when they’d be able to change district boundaries.

“We know that gerrymandering is a very common Republicans strategy to try and win elections, so yeah, we’re really worried.” Whitver, the G-O-P leader in the Senate, says the first set of maps were rejected two out of the four previous times the Iowa legislature has approved a redistricting plan under the current state law.

We’re also under a time constraint here. We have a December 1 deadline from the Supreme Court to have a map done,” Whitver says. “There’s that time constraint to work with and we expect to see (Plan) 2 fairly soon and we’ll just continue through this process.” The Census data used to craft the district maps was delivered five months late, so the legislature was unable to meet the September 1st deadline for approving a redistricting plan. Under the state’s constitution, the Iowa Supreme Court now has authority over the process, but the court has given legislators authority to continue through the steps outlined in state law. Whitver says the law’s requirements would be in force, even if legislators get to a third map that can be amended.

“If anyone thinks you can just come in and draw whatever you want, that’s not legal in Iowa,” Whitver says. “It’s following the process of a non-partisan map, a second non-partisan map, get to a third map — if it happens, but you still can’t throw away the Iowa law as far as the requirements of what a district should look like.” Speaker Pat Grassley, the top Republican in the Iowa House, says the first plan for redistricting was fair, but the Senate raised legitimate concerns that will hopefully be addressed in the second set of maps.

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