Des Moines —
Redistricting: Every ten years when the census data becomes available, the process of redrawing Congressional and State Legislative Districts begins. Iowa’s redistricting process is unique. Some states rely on the courts to settle disputes over political advantage in their proposals and others have commissions appointed to draw their districts. However, Iowa uses the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) to create its congressional and legislative districts.
Congressional districts are drawn first because the legislative districts are based upon them. Iowa will only be apportioned four congressional seats in the next redistricting plan. Iowa Code requires that congressional districts be as nearly equal as practicable but cannot split county boundaries. Iowa law also states that no district can vary by more than one percent from the ideal population. If a district varies more than one percent, the burden is on the General Assembly to justify the variation.
Legislative districts are also required to be as nearly equal as practicable. Legislative districts should also not vary by more than one percent so as to avoid the burden shift. The legislative district boundaries shall coincide with boundaries for political subdivisions. This means that the number of counties and cities that are divided shall be as small as possible. The larger political subdivision will be split over the smaller, unless a district line follows a county line and splits a city. All representative districts are completely nested in a senatorial district and as much as possible, each senatorial district shall be nested within a single congressional district.
An absolute requirement by the Iowa Code is that districts be composed of convenient and contiguous territories which means that districts cannot be irregularly shaped. Iowa Code prohibits the lines from being drawn for the purpose of “favoring a political incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group . . .”
Timeline: The first “plan” will be delivered to the General Assembly within 45 days. The plan cannot be amended and must move to a full floor vote in one chamber. It cannot die in subcommittee or committee. If the first plan fails to pass the General Assembly, a second plan must be delivered to the General Assembly within 35 days of the rejection. If that plan does not pass the General Assembly, a third plan is presented. The third plan can be amended unlike the first and second plans. A plan must be adopted by the General Assembly by September 1, 2011, and signed by the Governor by September 15. The Iowa Supreme Court is given the power to create the redistricting if this does not occur. There are additional requirements regarding each plan.
More information on redistricting can be found at http://www.legis.iowa.gov/Resources/Redist/redistricting.aspx.