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Iowa Governor Calls Special Legislative Session To Draw New Political Maps

John Pemble
IPR file
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday she is calling a special legislative session to begin Oct. 5.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday she is calling a special legislative session to begin Oct. 5 so Iowa lawmakers can consider and vote on new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts.

Also Tuesday, the Iowa Supreme Court released an order giving permission for the state’s typical redistricting process to continue past the Sept. 15 deadline set by the Iowa Constitution for enacting new legislative districts.

“I think the end of the order makes it clear that the legislature is going to follow the process identified in the Iowa Code,” said Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa. “So it’s just that the deadline no longer is Sept. 15. It’s Dec. 1.”

The release of population data from the 2020 U.S. Census was delayed this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the state unable to meet its constitutional deadline for legislative redistricting. That left the authority for redistricting to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The Court made clear Tuesday that lawmakers will be able to vote to approve or reject proposed political maps as they have in the past.

“I think the Supreme Court, rightly, is being minimally disruptive in the process,” Muller said. “And so it’ll play out in Iowa like it’s played out for the last 40, 50 years.”

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a statement the House GOP is eager to begin the redistricting process after months of delays.

“We’ve worked with the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency and the Supreme Court to ensure that the integrity of our highly-praised redistricting process is maintained,” Grassley said.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, released a statement saying Senate Republicans’ goal is to follow the redistricting process set by Iowa Code Chapter 42.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said Senate Democrats are reviewing the court order.

“As we have said since Day 1, Iowans deserve a fair redistricting process, without interference from politicians, and without partisan amendments,” Wahls said. “The legislature should approve Plan 1 during the Oct. 5 special session if it meets all the legal and constitutional requirements.”

The House Democratic leader did not provide a comment on the redistricting special session Tuesday.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency began drawing a first set of legislative and congressional maps in August. LSA announced it plans to release the maps Thursday. The maps will be available for the public to view on the legislature’s website.

Next week, the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission is planning to hold three virtual public hearings for Iowans to comment on the maps. Submitting written comments online will also be an option. After the hearings, the TRAC will submit a report to the legislature.

When the special session starts, if lawmakers are following the process set out in Iowa law, the legislature can vote to accept or reject the first set of maps. They may not amend the first set.

If lawmakers reject the first set of maps, they can vote to approve or reject a second set without amendments. If the second set is rejected, they can amend the third set of maps.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter