Iowa Legislature approves new congressional and legislative maps

By: - October 28, 2021 6:40 pm

The Iowa Legislature approved a new redistricting plan on Thursday, Oct. 28. (Map by the Iowa Legislative Services Agency)

Iowa lawmakers have approved a new set of district maps, redrawing the congressional and legislative boundaries for the next decade.

The Senate voted 48-1 to pass the new maps. The House voted 93-2 in favor of the redistricting plan.

“So as we vote… we should take pride in what we’re doing,” said Rep. Brent Siegrist, R-Council Bluffs. “It is the gold standard for the nation, it’s recognized nationally as the way to do this. What we do in Iowa, I think, is extremely important today.”

“Redistricting has an immense impact on our democracy,” Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said. “It influences who wins elections, who is at the table when laws are considered and what laws actually pass. It sets the stage to ensure that every vote counts equally.”

She urged senators to support the plan, saying it satisfied the legal and constitutional requirements. Democrats have been vocal throughout the redistricting process that lawmakers should approve the plans proposed by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Democratic leadership warned that allowing the process to move onto a third map, which lawmakers would be allowed to amend directly, could lead to gerrymandering in the state.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said the new maps weren’t “perfect” but they improved on the average population deviation among districts and addressed some concerns about district compactness compared to the first maps. Smith critiqued the first maps earlier this month for odd shapes and population irregularities.

“Instead of undermining the quote, unquote, gold standard process by spreading a false narrative of gerrymandering, like some in this chamber have done, Iowa’s Senate Republicans upheld our role and responsibility in this once-in-a-decade requirement to ensure congressional and legislative districts meet both constitutional and statutory standards,” Smith said.

Congressional: Iowa retains four districts, with no Democratic stronghold

Iowa kept four U.S. House seats in this round of redistricting.

This map maintains a more even political balance than the first proposal, which would have created a likely Democratic seat in the 1st District. Instead, the new map will keep Democrat-leaning Linn and Johnson counties in separate districts. That allows the GOP to maintain a slight edge in the 1st and 2nd districts.

Lawmakers are only supposed to consider nonpartisan parts of the map such as population differences among districts when deciding whether to approve one.

SECOND CONGRESSIONAL MAP

One consequence of the new districts: U.S. Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, a Republican currently of the 2nd District, is now living in the 3rd District, where Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne serves.

“I have indicated that I will be a candidate for re-election,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement Thursday evening. “I will be evaluating the new districts to determine my next step, which I will be announcing shortly.”

Legislative maps put 58 incumbents in opposition

The new legislative districts for the Iowa House and Senate will put 58 incumbent lawmakers — 38 House members and 20 senators — into competition with one another. That’s similar to the first proposal, which would have put 62 lawmakers into new districts together.

In the same way that lawmakers are not supposed to consider the partisan balance of the U.S. House, they also may not make decisions on the map based on their personal political aspirations. But long-time Sen. Tony Bisignano acknowledged that it’s a factor for people.

“Survival is the first order of business in politics,” Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said. “If you’re not here, you have no effect. The first thing you look at when they hand you this packet is yourself.”

SECOND HOUSE MAP
SECOND SENATE MAP

— Kathie Obradovich contributed reporting.

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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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