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Redistricting Begins

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Every ten years, after the US Census is done, every state goes through what we call a "redistricting" process.  It is how we make sure every district in the state has about the same number of people in it, so that we all have equal representation in our State Capitols (state legislatures) and Washington DC (Congress).  This year, all states are behind in drawing these new maps, since census data came in late during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Iowa's redistricting process is a national model - it is really hard to mess around with the maps to help one political party or the other.  We wrote a lot about this back in April (click here to read that article). 

  • Iowa Constitution requires new maps to be signed into law by September 15, or the Iowa Supreme Court must "cause the state to be apportioned" by the end of the year. The Supreme Court has said they will "cause" the new maps to be drawn by asking the Legislature to do it in October.  
  • After the first map is released, a five-person Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission is required to host at least three public hearings to hear what Iowans think about the maps.  Usually these must be held in three different geographic areas - but this year the redistricting commission plans to hold them virtually on Sept. 20 (7 pm), Sept. 21 (Noon), and Sept. 22 (6 pm).  You can watch for more details about joining these meetings on our social media feeds, or here.  The commission will have to report back to the Legislature within 14 days of getting the maps, so this process will move very quickly.
  • The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency draws up the first plan without any outside interference (they actually move them to a private location to do this).  That map must be done within 45 days of the state receiving the census data (Iowa received their data in mid-August).  

  • The Legislature is then required to vote on the first map within three days of receiving the commission's report.  The Legislature cannot amend the maps, it is a yes or no vote.  If the first map is not accepted, the Legislative Services Agency is required to prepare a second map within 35 days.  That map is also not amendable, the commission is not required to hold additional public hearings, and the Legislature must vote on the map within 7 days of seeing it.
  • If the Legislature does not vote for the second map, a third plan is developed and sent to legislators. This plan can be amended, which opens the door to "gerry mandering," which means politicians drawing map lines to help their political party.  Iowa has never amended a plan since the passage of this process in 1980, because Iowa's process is fair, unbiased and almost immune to politics.  The first plan was enacted in 1991 and 2011; the second plan was enacted in 2001; and the third plan was enacted in 1981 without amendment.

 Why is this important?  

US Representatives, state representatives, and state senators all represent a district.  You are represented in Congress and at the State Capitol by these people.  When the maps of districts change, you may end up in a different district, with different elected officials.  For instance, one Western Iowa advocate is friends with his state senator.  Western Iowa lost population, so the districts there will change some and will probably grow in geographic size.  There is a chance that the advocate, who lives in a different county than his senator friend, may end up in a different state senate district.

This means you may have someone new representing you after the next election (November 2022).  It's important to remember, the new districts won't change who represents you in the Legislature next session (January-April 2022).  Legislators will run in these new districts in November 2022, so they will be really interested in hearing from any "new constituents" even before the maps become official.

You can see the current district maps here.


The Iowa Legislature will come back for a special session in October to adopt new legislative and Congressional district maps.

There will be three public hearings to hear what Iowans think about the first map held online at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20; Noon on Thursday, September 21; and 6 p.m. on Friday, September 22.

Congressional and legislative candidates will run in these new districts next year (November 2022 election).  

You may end up in a new legislative or Congressional district.


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