Capital Clicks

Lawmakers hope for early release of census data before fall redistricting deadline

By: - February 25, 2021 2:20 pm

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

Legislative leaders said Thursday they aren’t sure yet how Iowa will resolve a redistricting problem in the fall.

In past redistricting years, Iowa’s legislative branch has had several months to consider census data and draw new maps. This year, the U.S. Census Bureau originally planned to deliver data to states by the end of March, but the organization announced this month that data may not be ready until late September.

That leaves Iowa with “a lot of unanswered questions,” House Speaker Pat Grassley said. 

Legislative leaders are required by the Iowa Constitution to submit a redistricting map by Sept. 1. The governor must approve that plan by Sept. 15. If those deadlines are missed, the Iowa Supreme Court may decide how to redistrict the state.

Ed Cook, legal counsel for the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, said Monday that he expected data for all states to come out at the same time, “probably some time in September.”

Grassley, R-New Hartford, told reporters Thursday that he planned to “exhaust the other options” before the redistricting process was turned over to the Iowa Supreme Court. He said legislative leaders were working with the federal delegation to learn more about whether census data may come out sooner than expected.

“Things change quickly in Washington, so it’s hard for me to give you a final decision sitting here in February,” he said.

Democratic leaders told reporters Thursday that they hoped the data would come out with enough time for legislators to consider the maps. If not, Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the legislative branch would try to provide the court with resources for fair redistricting.

“If it does wind up going to the Supreme Court … I think legislative leaders, Republicans and Democrats, would certainly urge the court to use the services of Ed Cook and the Legislative Services Agency,” he said.

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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.