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Senate Republicans have rejected Iowa's first proposed redistricting plan

Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first proposed redistricting plan Tuesday.
Katarina Sostaric
Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first proposed redistricting plan Tuesday.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted Tuesday to reject thefirst set of proposed legislative and congressional districts.

Key GOP senators said the maps, drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, could be improved in terms of the districts’ compactness and population deviation.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said while the maps may meet legal requirements, there are multiple districts that are too irregularly shaped.

“This map includes a triangle, a pyramid, a figure eight, and a district that is so irregular, it looks like the 1800s salamander known for gerrymandering,” Smith said.

All 32 Republican senators voted to reject the map, and all 18 Democrat senators voted to approve it.

Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said the plan satisfies Iowa law.

“This map is fair,” Jochum said. “It’s independent. It does not give advantage to one party over another. It does not. Nor should it.”

Jochum noted that the majority of public comments expressed support for the first redistricting plan.

The LSA has 35 days to draw a second plan, which means the second week of November is the latest that the next plan would be released. Lawmakers can only vote to accept or reject that plan, too. They can’t amend it.

If lawmakers reject the second plan, they will be allowed to amend the third plan. The Iowa Supreme Court has said redistricting must be completed by Dec. 1.

After Tuesday’s vote, top Democratic lawmakers said they don’t think Republicans’ concerns were legitimate reasons for rejecting the maps. They repeated their warning that the Republicans’ rejection of the first proposed redistricting plan is a signal they will try for a third map so they can draw their own districts.

“Republicans should stop playing politics and accept the second nonpartisan map without amendment to guarantee Iowa’s gold standard for fair representation continues,” House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights said.

This is not the first time lawmakers have rejected the first set of redistricting maps. In 2001, the second plan was enacted. In 1981, the first year Iowa used this process, the third plan was enacted without amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said senators intend to keep following Iowa’s laws governing redistricting. Whitver was asked if Republicans would amend a potential third set of maps.

“I’m not going to make any commitments on what happens on the second map,” Whitver said. “We don’t know. We’re already looking to the third map—we haven’t even seen map two yet. And so we’re committed to following the process.”

The Iowa House of Representatives didn’t get a chance to vote on the first redistricting plan because the Senate rejected it.

“As I have stated previously, I believe these maps to be fair maps for Iowa,” House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said. “However, I don’t believe the Senate’s concerns with compactness and population deviation are unwarranted. I am hopeful that LSA will produce a map that improves upon the Senate’s concerns and meets all of the other criteria for a fair map outlined in Iowa Code.”

The Iowa Legislature did not consider any other bills during the approximately four-hour special session.

Dozens of protesters were at the Statehouse calling on lawmakers to take more action against COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter