Capital Clicks

Iowa redistricting plan still in limbo due to U.S. census delays

By: - February 22, 2021 4:10 pm

A map of Iowa Senate districts for 2012 – 2022. (Courtesy of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency)

Iowa’s redistricting plan faces a schedule snafu in 2021 and legislative leaders still “don’t have any idea” how it will be resolved, according to nonpartisan legislative staff.

Iowa’s Constitution says the Legislature needs to finalize a legislative redistricting plan by Sept. 1. Then, Gov. Kim Reynolds has two weeks to review the plan and sign off by Sept. 15. If those deadlines aren’t met, the Iowa Supreme Court gets to redraw the district lines.

But due to COVID-19 delays, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that states may not even have census data until late September, rendering the redistricting team incapable of starting the deliberation process.

“At this point, we don’t have any idea how legislative redistricting is going to be conducted,” said Ed Cook, legal counsel for the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Read more: Census delays in releasing population data throws states into redistricting chaos

Cook said that the LSA, which is a part of the Legislative Branch, has not reached out to the Supreme Court about how the Census Bureau delay will affect the process. He emphasized that, ultimately, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide how to proceed.

Members of the bipartisan Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission noted that Iowa Code usually gives the legislative branch several months to consider and approve redistricting plans.

“I think to turn this process over to the judicial branch is not what was intended when we had our separation of powers, but that’s just my opinion,” said David Roederer, commission member and the recently retired director of Iowa’s Department of Management. 

Cook predicted that Iowa will receive census data at the same time as other states, likely sometime in September.

Although the process is significantly behind schedule, the commission also still needs to elect a fifth member. The body is composed of two Republicans and two Democrats who will submit proposals and vote on the fifth member of the panel.

Cook said the law specifies the commission should elect a fifth member by Feb. 15, but that often the selection was made after that deadline, even in years without nationwide census delays.

The committee will meet next March 1 to elect a fifth commissioner.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie 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.