Iowa's Public Hearings On Redistricting End With Majority Supporting First Maps
The public comment period for new proposed boundaries for Iowa’s legislative and congressional districts ended Wednesday evening, with the vast majority of comments expressing support for the first set of maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.
More than 250 comments were submitted in total, with most of them written rather than spoken during the series of three public hearings.
At a virtual public hearing Wednesday, Brenda Brink of Huxley urged Iowa lawmakers to resist gerrymandering and to approve the first set of maps.
“Voters in our state have confidence in this process and want to continue to feel that Iowa is a state of opportunity—opportunity for all, not just one party,” Brink said.
The once-every-decade process of redrawing political maps can have a significant effect on Iowans’ political representation at the state and national level.
The Republican-led legislature will meet in October to vote to accept or reject the first set of redistricting maps. Lawmakers cannot change the proposed political boundaries at this stage of the process.
If the legislature rejects the first and second sets of maps drawn by the nonpartisan LSA, state law allows Iowa lawmakers to modify the third set. As of Thursday morning, Democratic leaders in the Iowa Legislature have said they support the first maps, but Republican leaders have not said how they plan to vote.
Shannon Patrick of Iowa City supports moving Cedar Rapids and Iowa City into a new 1st Congressional District, because a lot of people commute between those cities and their suburbs.
“I think it makes sense to treat this area as an emerging and growing together—basically, single metropolitan and economic area, in the same way that I see you grouped Dallas and Polk County to reflect that growth there,” Patrick said.
And the president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa—an organization that played a role in the creation of Iowa’s redistricting process decades ago—said the proposed maps fairly reflect the state’s population shift from rural communities to metropolitan areas.
“So we need to encourage our legislators to vote to adopt this plan drawn by the LSA when they convene in special session on Oct. 5,” Terese Grant said. “We need to continue to be the gold standard for the rest of the country.”
A small portion of the public comments opposed the first set of maps.
Steve Woodhouse raised concerns about an irregularly shaped legislative district and about the proposed 4th Congressional District spanning 44 counties.
“I don’t really think that’s fair because it’s going to be difficult for any rural residents in that district to get any attention or anything like that,” Woodhouse said. “And my concerns are just basically because there seems to be such a huge divide between the wants and needs of rural Iowa versus that of urban. And I don’t think it’s going to be balanced enough with this map.”
A few speakers who study and teach at Morningside College in Sioux City asked for a state legislative district boundary to be moved so that it no longer splits the campus in half. They said the current line—which would be maintained under the new proposal—makes it more difficult to get students engaged in voting.
All three virtual public hearings held this week ended early because there weren’t enough speakers present to fill the scheduled time.
The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission has a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon. The commission has until Sept. 30 to submit a report with feedback on the first set of maps to the Iowa Legislature.
See the proposed maps here.