Redistricting proposal places Tama County outside Rep. Hinson’s district

First set of redistricting maps sent to Iowa General Assembly

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency’s Proposed Plan 1 for Iowa’s Congressional Districts. Under this first set of proposed redistricting maps, Tama County would no longer be part of the 1st District — Rep. Ashley Hinson’s (R-Iowa) district — but would migrate to the 2nd District which is currently represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) of Wapello County. Image provided by Legislative Services Agency.

New maps could lead to a remaking of the political landscape in Iowa — Tama County included.

What is now a quadrant of four U.S. Congressional districts arranged counterclockwise — effectively a northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest set of districts — would become a staggered, somewhat linear set of districts running east to west, from river to river.

Iowa’s redistricting process publicly began Sept. 16 when the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) submitted their first redistricting plan to the Iowa General Assembly following a significant delay due to a tardy release of 2020 decennial census data blamed on the pandemic.

One of the biggest changes centers around the 1st and 2nd U.S. Congressional Districts — which are effectively flipped in this first round of redistricting maps. Reps. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) represent Iowa’s first and second Congressional districts, respectively.

Hinson is presently a Linn County resident, while Miller-Meeks resides in Wapello County.

Proposed Plan 1 for Iowa Senate District 34. This district would replace the current Iowa Senate District 36 starting with the 2022 election. Map provided by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Should this initial district map be approved, in the next election (2022) Tama County would no longer be part of the 1st District but would migrate to the 2nd District — Miller-Meeks’ current district.

Miller-Meeks announced on Sunday, Sept. 19 she will run for re-election in the 2nd District.

The current 1st District encompasses 20 counties in the northeast corner of the state, stretching as far west as Marshall County, as far south as Poweshiek and Iowa counties, and as far east as Jackson County along the Mississippi River.

The proposed new 1st District would contain just two of those current 20 counties — Linn and Jones.

State legislative districts would also change under this first round of redistricting maps.

Proposed Plan 1 for Iowa House District 68. This district would replace the current Iowa House District 72 starting with the 2022 election. Map provided by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Tama County is currently served by Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center) in Iowa Senate District 36 and by Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) in Iowa House District 72.

The new maps would cut out a portion of Marshall County and would put Edler in the same district as Sen. Annette Sweeney (R-Alden), leaving Tama County in Senate District 34, which would have an open seat as no current senators live within the proposed boundaries.

Under the new maps, Senate District 34 encompasses all of Tama County, roughly the northern half of Benton County, a small portion of rural Black Hawk County and the southeast quadrant of Marshall County including Marshalltown and Le Grand.

The current member of the Iowa Senate for Benton County — Dawn Driscoll (R-Williamsburg) — also does not reside in the new Senate district that Tama County would be part of under these new maps.

Historically, Tama County and Benton County have been paired together in their legislative districts.

In terms of its proposed new Iowa House district, Tama County would move from the 72nd to the 68th district which would encompass all of Tama County, roughly the northern half of Benton County, and a small portion of rural southwest Black Hawk county.

Rep. Fisher (R-Montour) would still reside in the new Iowa House District 68.

The current Iowa House representative for Benton County — Thomas Gerhold (R-Atkins) — does not live in the proposed new 68th district.

Effectively, Tama County’s new Iowa Senate District would be drawn from scratch unless one of the current senators decides to relocate.

This first round of maps is only the first proposal. If rejected by the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature, a second round of maps will be proposed by the LSA.

If the second round is rejected, the Iowa legislature can make amendments to the third round — which would be final.

Iowa has long touted its redistricting process as being nonpartisan and fair — referred to by political pundits across the nation as the ‘gold standard.’

In the last redistricting process — a process which takes place every 10 years alongside the decennial census– the Iowa General Assembly accepted the first set of maps, leading to the districts Iowa has today.

Population equity, respect for political subdivisions (districts/counties), and compactness are considered by the LSA when drawing districts under this process. Keeping districts “compact and contiguous” — according to Iowa Code — must also be adhered to.

Iowa Code also explicitly states that “a district shall not be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa) announced in September the special legislative session to address redistricting will begin on Oct. 5. During this session legislators can reject the first set of maps and ask for a second set, which would again be drawn by the LSA.

At this time the public has several opportunities and means to comment on the proposed maps through public hearings.

Members of the public were provided an opportunity to speak Monday, Sept. 20 (7 p.m.), Tuesday, Sept. 21 (12 p.m.), and Wednesday, Sept. 22 (6 p.m.) for three minutes during three different Redistricting Advisory Committee virtual hearings.

Written comments could be submitted for the public hearings as well via an online link.

Submitted comments and public sign-ups for all three of those hearings can be viewed here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees/publicHearings?ga=89.

Gov. Reynolds has until December 1, 2021 — per an Iowa Supreme Court ruling — to sign into law whichever version of the redistricting maps is ultimately chosen.