Proposed redistricting maps reshape Iowa’s political landscape

By: - September 16, 2021 10:49 am

The first proposed congressional map in 2021. (Map courtesy of Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency)

Iowa’s first round of redistricting maps would create significant changes in the state’s congressional and legislative districts and potentially reset some 2022 campaigns.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency presented new congressional and legislative maps to lawmakers Thursday, setting the ball rolling on a long-delayed redistricting process.

Congressional map swaps First and Second districts

Iowa won’t lose any House seats in this round of redistricting, but the first proposed map includes some major changes to district boundaries, especially in Eastern Iowa.

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Wapello County resident, currently presides over a Second District that includes the southeastern corner of the state. In the new map, the Second District instead extends upward from Wapello County to the Wisconsin border.

Iowa released the first proposed redistricting on Thursday. The current congressional map (left) differs significantly from the proposed congressional map (right). (Maps courtesy of Iowa LSA)

The First District would also see a major shift. It would be geographically much smaller under the proposal, covering the southeastern border of the state instead of the northeast corner. The district would include population-dense Linn, Johnson and Scott counties.

Dave Wasserman, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, tweeted that this could shift the First District toward Democrats, based on 2020 election results.

Currently, Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson represents the First District. She lives in Linn County.

The new boundaries could also shake up the 2022 race. Iowa Rep. Christina Bohannan announced a challenge to Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s Second District, but Bohannan is a Johnson County resident. Johnson County would be in Iowa’s First District under the new proposal, not the Second.

Bohannan has not made a statement about whether the new maps would change her candidacy. According to guidance from the Iowa Secretary of State, congressional candidates do not technically need to live in the district they’re running for — they just need to be residents of the state.

Lawmakers consider Statehouse boundaries

The LSA also released new maps for the state House and Senate. Lawmakers saw the maps for the first time Thursday morning.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, promised that lawmakers would “do our due diligence and review it thoroughly to ensure it is a fair set of maps for the people of Iowa.” Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said legislators were reviewing the plan and he encouraged Iowans to do the same.

Iowa’s proposed map for 2021 state Senate districts. (Map courtesy of Iowa LSA)

Iowa’s proposed map for 2021 state House districts. (Map courtesy of Iowa LSA)

Detailed maps of each district are available on the LSA website. Iowans can also use this tool to find what district they would live in, if the maps are approved.

Under Iowa law, state lawmakers must live in their district for at least 60 days before a general election. That means that, if two incumbents end up in one new district together, one will have to retire or move to avoid facing off in an election. The Associated Press reported that 62 lawmakers — 24 senators and 38 House members — would have conflicting districts under the proposal. Included in that number is Grassley, who lives in the same new district as Rep. Shannon Latham, R-Sheffield.

In a call with Iowa reporters, Democrats emphasized the importance of using a nonpartisan process to draw the new maps. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said she plans to vote in favor of the first proposal, then deal with any district-level strife that comes with it.

“It’s really not about politics,” she said. “It’s about representation.”

Iowa’s redistricting process is historically fair, but there are avenues for partisan lawmakers to tip the scales. If Iowa’s Republican majorities reject the first two proposed maps from the LSA, then they can make amendments on a third and final draft. 

Next up: Public hearings and a special session

Lawmakers and members of the public have just over two weeks to analyze and give feedback on the newly proposed districts. 

A bipartisan committee will hold three virtual meetings to allow Iowans to weigh in on the maps. Those meetings will take place next week:

  • Monday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 21, 12 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 22, 6 p.m.

Links to join the virtual meetings are available online here. Iowans can also submit written comments through the website.

Lawmakers will convene in Des Moines on Oct. 5 for a special session to consider the new district maps.

Democrat leaders said they did not anticipate any topics other than redistricting would come up during the session, but noted that could change.

“I would say that anybody who says anything declarative about what will happen during the special session right now is really just speculating,” Konfrst said.

Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, posted a 22-minute video on Thursday afternoon following a Republican caucus on redistricting. He said many Republicans spoke about concerns about vaccine mandates in that meeting. It is unclear if those concerns will translate to policy in the special session.

“The maps themselves are controversial. I don’t know if they’ll get approved or not,” Shipley said on Facebook.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.

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