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Iowans begin weighing in on redistricting plans
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Iowans begin weighing in on redistricting plans

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The Iowa State Capitol building Friday, July 31, 2020, in Des Moines.

Iowans have started weighing in on a plan to redraw the lines of the state’s congressional and legislative election boundaries and, for the most part, those who have expressed an opinion so far like it.

“I have looked at the redistricting maps and applaud the job the (Legislative Services Agency) has done. These districts are fair and were drawn on a nonpartisan basis,” Diana Wright wrote in an online comment submitted ahead of a Monday evening virtual public hearing on the redistricting plan released last week. “I would like to see them stand as drawn. Keep partisan politics out of our redistricting.”

The nonpartisan agency’s plan, created according to standards laid out in the Iowa Constitution and state law, ignores political ramifications of redrawing the congressional and legislative districts to reflect population changes shown in the 2020 census. In this case, for instance, the new lines put dozens of Iowa House and Iowa Senate members in districts with one or more other incumbents.

The standards required are population equality, keeping political subdivisions — counties and cities, for example — intact as much as possible, contiguity and compactness.

The proposed map meets those requirements and is a fair one, according to Thomas Carsner of Iowa City.

“It is judged by the LSA to be the best map. Iowa deserves the best,” he wrote. “A second or third map would be less than best. Why would we want less than the best?”

Not everyone was entirely pleased with the first map from the agency. Paul Uzel didn’t like Dubuque County being included in a new 2nd Congressional District that stretches from the Iowa-Minnesota border to Fairfield and from the Mississippi River west to Ames. It currently is in the 1st District.

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“Dubuque, while definitely northeast of the rest of the (proposed) 1st District, has much more in common with the 1st District,” he said. “This is particularly true for what Dubuque has in common with Linn and Johnson and Scott and the other Quad City counties. I see Dubuque as the north end of the central Mississippi River district rather than the south end of that area to its north.”

While Uzel sees that proposed 26-county district as a “considerable stretch,” it’s far smaller geographically than the proposed 44-county 4th Congressional District that runs from a southwest Iowa along the Missouri River and Iowa-Minnesota border to Howard County in northeast Iowa.

The new 12-county 1st Congressional District would include Linn, Johnson and Scott counties. A 17-county pyramid-shaped 3rd Congressional District would flow from Dallas and Polk on the north to the Missouri border.

The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission of two Democrats and two Republicans and a fifth member they agreed on will have three virtual hearings to gather more input. Besides Monday night’s hearing, one will be noon to 3 p.m. today and another 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Many of the comments submitted to the commission didn’t address the proposed plan so much as the process.

“I am proud that Iowa has in place a fair and logical method of redistricting,” Marisue Hartung wrote. “It makes sense to have an impartial body redistrict the state. It makes the process fair and open.”

After the three hearings, the commission will make its recommendation to the Iowa Legislature. Lawmakers will meet Oct. 5 to begin consideration of the plan. If lawmakers approved the first plan, it will go to the governor for her signature. If rejected, the agency will draw another map that again is subject to a yes-or-no vote without any changes. If rejected, the agency draws a third that can be amended by lawmakers.

For more information on redistricting and to register for and participate in the public hearings, visit www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/redistricting.

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