Iowa redistricting: Lawmakers to vote on second proposed maps

By: - October 28, 2021 6:45 am

The Iowa State Capitol. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa lawmakers will return to the Capitol Thursday morning to consider a second proposal for the state’s new legislative and congressional districts.

The House and Senate will gavel in at 10 a.m. to discuss the new maps. We will be updating this story throughout the day. Follow along here, or follow reporter Katie Akin on Twitter at @katie_akin for live updates.

How will lawmakers vote today?

It remains unclear whether this round of maps will pass.

Republicans voted down the first proposed maps earlier this month, arguing that the initial proposal did not distribute the population evenly enough, and that some districts were oddly shaped. Republican lawmakers, who hold majorities in the House and Senate, have not said publicly how they intend to vote on the second proposal.

Democrats, meanwhile, have emphasized throughout the process that the Legislature must accept the nonpartisan maps as they are. Democratic leaders have announced their intention to vote in favor of the second maps, just as they did for the first proposal.

“Just like the first map, this second map is fair and meets the legal and constitutional requirements,” said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. “It addresses all of the purported concerns of the Republicans from the first map.”

If Republicans vote against the maps Thursday, nonpartisan legislative staff will have one final chance to draw maps. If lawmakers vote against that third proposal, Iowa law gives politicians the power to amend that third map. 

Democrats have cautioned that allowing Republicans to amend the final map could lead to gerrymandering. They called on the majority party to promise not to amend the final map, if the process continues. The Republicans have made no such promises.

How do these maps compare to the first proposal?

The most notable difference between the first and second maps is the political balance of the U.S. House districts.

SECOND CONGRESSIONAL MAP

The first map grouped Linn County and Johnson County into the same district. The liberal population centers would have created a safer Democratic 1st District in the place of the current, Republican-controlled area.

The second proposal keeps Linn and Johnson in separate districts, as they are currently. All four of the districts voted for Trump in the 2020 election, whereas in the first map, two of the four districts swung in Biden’s favor. 

Dave Wasserman, senior editor for the Cook Political Report, tweeted that the second proposal was “a dream GOP map.”


The legislative maps were “very similar” to the first proposal, Democratic Sen. Tony Bisignano said.

The new maps would put 58 incumbent lawmakers — 38 House members and 20 senators — in the same districts together. That’s about the same as the first map, which districted 62 lawmakers together, according to the Associated Press.

SECOND HOUSE MAP
SECOND SENATE MAP

Lawmakers are not technically supposed to consider the political leanings of the map when approving new districts. But some long-time politicians acknowledged that it’s a factor.

“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.”

What happens if lawmakers vote in favor of the maps?

If the House and the Senate both approve the redistricting plan, they will send it to Gov. Kim Reynolds for approval.

What happens if lawmakers vote against?

If lawmakers vote down the second proposal, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency will have 35 days to draw a new map. The LSA is likely to move faster than that, however, as the legislative branch only has until Dec. 1 to approve a new plan. If lawmakers do not meet the Dec. 1 deadline, the Iowa Supreme Court will take control of the process. 

Unlike the first two maps, lawmakers will have the ability to directly amend the third proposal.

Iowa has only moved onto a third redistricting map once before, in 1981. Lawmakers approved that third map without amendment. 

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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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