Capital Clicks

Redistricting plan will be ready by Sept. 16, after constitutional deadline

By: - August 17, 2021 12:31 pm

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

Delayed several months by census glitches, Iowa’s redistricting process has begun.

Ed Cook, senior legal counsel for the Legislative Services Agency, told a bipartisan commission on Tuesday that the first redistricting proposal would be finished by Sept. 16. The U.S. Census released data last week that allows states to draw new legislative and congressional maps based on how the population has changed.

“We’ve indicated to the General Assembly and to the public… that we will complete that within 35 days of the release of that data, which occurred last Thursday,” Cook said.

The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission will be responsible for holding public hearings on the proposed maps. The panel met Tuesday morning and elected Sue Lerdal, a nonpartisan fiscal analyst for the Legislative Services Agency, to lead the group as its fifth member and chairperson.

“I grew up a county auditor’s kid, so I’ve been involved since I was quite young,” Lerdal said.

What happens next?

Cook told members of the advisory committee that he expects the initial plan will be finished by Sept. 16, a Thursday.

After that plan is completed, the commission will have 14 days to host public hearings on the plan. Members of the committee have not yet decided how or when to hold those meetings, which will allow members of the public to give feedback on the new maps.

The Legislative Services Agency will compile feedback from those public hearings and report back to the Legislature, which will meet for a special session to review and vote on the maps. Cook was not sure exactly when that session would take place but based on the expected timeline, it could be late September or early October.

Supreme Court will decide on constitutional deadlines

The Iowa Constitution states that legislative redistricting — that’s the redrawing of boundaries for the state House and Senate races — must be approved the General Assembly by Sept. 1. The governor must enact the plan by Sept. 15.

That’s not happening this year.

“We will not have a plan submitted in time for that to occur … We would almost have to release the plan today for that to potentially happen, and that’s just not going to happen,” Cook said.

The Iowa Supreme Court will decide how to handle redistricting when that deadline is missed. The court issued a vague statement in April that the state will follow the nonpartisan process laid out in Iowa law “to the extent possible.”

“That ultimately is going to be a determination of the Supreme Court as to what to do for that deadline,” Cook said.

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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.