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Iowa Won't Meet Redistricting Deadline; New Legislative, Congressional Maps Expected By Sept. 16

John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio
The agency in charge of redistricting says it won't have maps ready in time for the Sept. 1 deadline for the Iowa Legislature to approve new legislative districts.

The agency in charge of re-drawing Iowa’s congressional and legislative districts plans to complete the first set of maps by Sept. 16, which is too late to meet the constitutional deadline for lawmakers to approve new legislative maps.

Ed Cook, a senior legal counsel for Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, announced this Tuesday during a meeting of the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission.

The Iowa Constitution has a deadline of Sept. 1 for the Iowa Legislature to approve a law setting out the new legislative districts, and a deadline of Sept. 15 for the governor to sign the law and enact it.

“We would almost have to release the plan today for that to potentially happen, and that’s just not going to happen,” Cook said. “That, ultimately, is going to be a determination of the [Iowa] Supreme Court as to what to do with that deadline.”

The Iowa Supreme Court has not said publicly whether it will allow lawmakers to play their typical role in the redistricting process by voting to approve or reject maps. But some people involved appear to be confident that the Iowa Legislature will be able to convene for a special session this fall to vote on new maps.

This deadline does not exist for approving new congressional district boundaries.

The state is in this position because it received the U.S. Census data needed to begin the redistricting process on August 12, aftermonths of delays amid the pandemic. Typically, that data is delivered by April 1.

Cook said the state’s vendor has finished processing the data, and LSA staff would likely begin using it to draw new maps on Tuesday.

State law says LSA must submit the first round of maps within 45 days of receiving the redistricting data, but Cook said LSA will deliver the maps within 35 days this year. Then, the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission has 14 days to hold at least three public hearings and deliver a report to lawmakers.

“The General Assembly cannot vote on a plan until at least three days after the commission report has been submitted to the General Assembly,” Cook said.

A target date for starting a special session has not been announced, but if this timeline plays out, a special session could start as soon as late September or early October.

The TRAC also unanimously voted Tuesday to elect former LSA fiscal analyst Sue Lerdal to be the fifth member and chair of the commission. The other commission members are Chris Hagenow and Dave Roederer, both appointed by Republican leaders, and Jazmin Newton and Ian Russell, both appointed by Democratic leaders.

The TRAC plans to meet again next week to discuss the scheduling of public hearings.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter