What if Iowa had politicized redistricting?

(Thanks to the diarist for a fun trip to an alternative universe. For an outstanding overview of some realistic post-census Iowa maps, check out ragbrai08's post on redistricting. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa is among the small number of states that use a bipartisan (or nonpartisan) commission to perform redistricting every 10 years. The resulting maps are often very competitive and fair when compared with those of many other states.

However, I started thinking anout what would happen if, hypothetically, the party in charge of the legislature controlled redistricting rather than the commission. What would such a map look like? How would the current incumbents be affected?

The map the I created was designed to help Democrats because currently the legislature is under Democratic control and the governor is a Democrat. In this hypothetical scenario, Republicans cannot block the plan through filibusters or avoiding a quorum. Since Iowa is set to lose one of its districts after the 2010 census, my plan uses four districts rather than the five that currently exist.

My main goals were to:

-Maintain Democratic advantages in eastern Iowa

-Protect Leonard Boswell

-Dismantle Tom Latham's district and force him to run against Steve King

(Note from desmoinesdem: current map and ridiculous-looking gerrymandered map are after the jump.)

Here is the current map:

old districts

And here is the map that I ended up creating:

new districts

1st District (Blue)



Major Cities: Davenport. Dubuque, Waterloo

The new 1st district has all but two of the counties of the current 1st (Jones and Fayette). It picks up all of the counties along the Minnesota border, as well as a number of adjacent counties (basically the northern bits of Latham and King's districts). It is still considerably Democratic, although less so than before. However, the district is still largely centered in Democratic-leaning northeastern Iowa, so it should elect Bruce Braley or another Democrat easily enough.

2nd District (Red)



Major Cities: Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Burlington

This district keeps all of the counties currently located in Dave Loebsack's southeastern district, and it gains Jones County from the 1st, as well as a few Republican counties from Steve King's 5th district (Decatur, Ringgold, and Taylor). It also picks up 6 of the 12 counties in Leonard Boswell's 3rd district (5 of those 6 counties went for McCain, so this takes some of the pressure off of Boswell). The result is a very Democratic district in southeastern Iowa that is now able to dilute Republican influence from some of the neighboring districts. Loebsack or another Democrat would have no trouble getting reelected here.

3rd District (Purple)



Major Cities: Carroll, Des Moines, Fort Dodge

This district retains roughly half of the counties in Leonard Boswell's 3rd district, but also picks up Democratic counties from the 4th and 5th districts. Over half of the population in the district lives in Polk County (Des Moines). My main goal was to protect Leonard Boswell since he seems to have frequent trouble in his current district. He would be more than safe here; this district went for Obama by over 20 points, making it the most Democratic district in Iowa. If Tom Latham wanted to run against Boswell, he would first have to move to the 3rd (his Ames home is located outside of the district), and even then he would have a difficult race given the new nature of the district. Steve King's home in Crawford County has also been moved into this district, but it would be hopeless for him to run here, given his ultraconservative profile. This district would favor most any Democrat.

4th District (Green)



Major Cities: Ames, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Storm Lake

At first, I thought it would be impossible to put western Iowa into a Democratic district, but it was indeed possible. Obama only won this district by about 1%, but making it much more Democratic would have put Braley or Boswell in danger. The 4th keeps most of its current western base, but loses several western counties to the other 3 districts (including Crawford County, where Steve King lives). It gains many of the counties in Tom Latham's current 4th district, including Dallas and Story (where Latham lives) and Fayette County (located in the current 1st dstrict). This district has much of Latham's former territory, so he would have the best chance of winning in this district. But first he would probably have to face Steve King in a Republican primary. If the primary was divisive enough, or if King was the GOP nominee, this marginally Democratic district could be won by a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.

So while none of this will probably ever happen, I thought that it would be interesting to examine a hypothetical scenario. So… what do you all think? Comments, suggestions, ideas?

Tags: 2010, Census, House, Iowa

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  • Clever, but . . .

    I’m really glad we have honest redistricting and don’t have to worry about this possible outcome.

    • this is a useful exercise

      because no matter what the eventual map looks like, Republicans will complain about Democratic gerrymandering. This shows them what a really gerrymandered map of Iowa would look like.

      I am impressed that the diarist was able to create a slightly Dem-leaning district even in western Iowa by putting the extreme NW counties in Braley’s district.

      Also, very smart to give IA-03 an extra boost, because Boswell might need the help in 2012.

      But I agree with you, we are better off with the system we have: non-partisan and requiring compact districts.

      • It could be even worse...

        If the requirement that counties be kept whole was dropped, the gerrymandering could go to a whole new level. You could cut the Boz in on some of the Dem-rich Johnson County suburbs and move more conservative Union and Clarke into the 2nd. Likewise, there could be some way to snake the 4th district into Cedar Falls. We could look more like Illinois, where there are some districts that are as narrow as an alleyway in places.

        We are so lucky to have the current system.  

  • Thank you so much!

    I have never had a diary entry front-paged before!

    • clearly you put a lot of work

      into this exercise, so it’s well deserved. Feel free to post any future Iowa-related diaries here.