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Is IA's Nonpartisan Redistricting Facing Headwinds?

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021   

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Going into the current redistricting cycle, Iowa was lauded for its nonpartisan process, but as new political maps are crafted, there are concerns party priorities will get in the way, and community-level activists urged policymakers to avoid that path.

The redrawing of legislative and congressional districts happens every ten years after a formal census count. Unlike most other states, Iowa's maps are drawn by the independent Legislative Services Agency (LSA). But Republicans, who control the General Assembly, rejected the LSA's initial maps.

Matthew Covington, community organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, warned about straying too far from the state's general approach.

"Everyday Iowans are paying attention, and they won't forget," Covington asserted. "They will every two years show up at the polls to express how they feel that lawmakers jeopardized our nonpartisan redistricting process."

The LSA is expected to submit new maps for the Legislature to consider this week. But if lawmakers keep saying no, it opens the door for them to draw the new boundaries. And with one party in control, watchdogs argued it creates fairness issues. A key GOP leader said they are following the process, arguing there can be improvements in compactness and population deviation.

Covington noted they remain hopeful it will not get to the point of elected officials taking over the map-making. In the meantime, he hopes the commission keeps the best interests of communities in mind as it moves forward.

"We balance not only various constituencies in the state, but also both urban and rural interests," contended. "That's why it's so important that the process we have is honored and politicians don't get involved themselves."

The General Assembly is scheduled to meet Oct. 28 to vote on the new LSA maps. Complicating matters is a Dec. 1 deadline from the Iowa Supreme Court to complete the process, or risk court intervention.


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