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Iowa redistricting map draws praise, reflects population shift
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Iowa redistricting map draws praise, reflects population shift

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While some have labeled the proposed redistricting plan for Iowa congressional and legislative districts as a radical change, speakers at a public hearing Tuesday called it “reflective.”

“To me (the maps) reflect the significant population shifts that have occurred in Iowa over the past decade,” John Hale, a Statehouse lobbyist from Ankeny, told the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission on Tuesday. “We've all seen and felt those shifts” from rural areas to the metro areas.“

More than two-thirds of Iowa counties recorded population loss between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, Hale said, while there’s been pronounced growth in the Polk-Dallas County corridor in central Iowa. The two counties are “literally growing together and should be treated as one for purposes of redistricting.”

Shannon Patrick had similar thoughts about the proposed 1st Congressional District that includes Linn and Johnson counties.

“As an Iowa City resident, I will say that the two communities have really been working over the last probably 20 years to integrate better,” Patrick said. Many of his co-workers commute between the Iowa City community and Cedar Rapids area. Given the growth in those communities along with population increases in North Liberty, Tiffin and other Corridor communities, “I think it makes sense to treat this area as an emerging and growing, basically, single metropolitan and economic area.”

It was the second virtual public hearing by the commission, which will make a recommendation to the Legislature on the redistricting plan. Iowans who wish to voice an opinion on the plan may speak at a third virtual public hearing from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday or submit written comments.. Comments also may be submitted through the Legislature’s website until the start of that hearing.

Much like the initial hearing Monday, Tuesday’s three-hour hearing was adjourned after 30 minutes because there were no more speakers.

Just as people who have commented online, speakers Tuesday praised Iowa’s redistricting process that has the initial map drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency rather than by elected officials who have a stake in how the districts are configured.

Elinor Levin of Iowa City encouraged the commission “not go back to being a state where redistricting is based on handshakes and winks and just accept and just accept the fact that districts are going to be drawn to the benefit of the people who are already in power.”

Amy Campbell of Johnston, a lobbyist whose clients include the League of Women Voters of Iowa, said redistricting in other states “is messy, it is partisan, it is stressful.”

Looking at the LSA’s map, “I don't know how you can get closer on representation — less than a 10th of a percent away in those congressional districts,” Campbell said. In a state with a population of 3,190,369 people, the difference between the smallest and largest of four congressional districts is 99 people.

“When you look at everything that was done the respect to the Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the respect to keeping counties as whole as possible and those legislative districts, I don't think you could ask for a second map to look any better,” Campbell said.

The LSA did an “incredible job,” added Terese Grant of Grinnell, president of the League, which she reminded the panel had a small role in establishing the current nonpartisan redistricting process.

“So we need to encourage our legislators to a vote to adopt this plan,” she said. “We need to continue to be the gold standard for the rest of the country.”

If lawmakers reject this plan, the LSA will draw another.

It’s unlikely to be better, however, said Pam Mackey Taylor of Marion, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter.

“Others may comply” with the constitutional requirements for redistricting, she said, “but this certainly is a good map.”

The Legislature will convene in special session Oct. 5 to consider the redistricting plan. Lawmakers cannot make changes to the plan before the vote to approve or reject it. If approved, the plan will go to the governor for her signature. If not, the LSA will draw another map, also subject to a yes-or-no vote without changes. If rejected, the LSA draws a third that can be amended by lawmakers.

For more information on redistricting, go to www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/redistricting.

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