Iowa’s “unique” redistricting process is about to begin, and Mike Glover provides an overview for the Associated Press.
That [non-partisan] Legislative Services Agency prepares a map of new congressional and legislative districts, and that initial map must be submitted to the Legislature by April 1. In preparing the map, staffers can use only population data to propose districts that are as close to equal and as compact as possible.
They are banned from considering data such as voter registration or voter performance, and they don’t have access to the addresses of incumbent legislators and congressmen until after the map is prepared. Once the map is drawn, they go back and figure out which lawmakers are in which district.
“Many things make the Iowa process unique, including the prohibition on the use of political data,” [Tim] Storey [of the National Conference of State Legislatures] said. […]
The Legislature can’t amend the first plan, only vote it up or down. If it’s voted down, staffers will prepare a second, also not subject to amendment. If that plan is rejected, staffers start again and prepare a third plan, which can be amended.
Bleeding Heartland will closely follow the upcoming redistricting. The new Congressional district lines will receive the most media attention, because Iowa is almost certain to lose one of its five Congressional districts. The new Iowa House and Senate district lines will alter the careers of many state legislators and could affect which party controls the upper and lower chambers after 2012.
Last year Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 wrote a must-read piece on the 2001 redistricting process in Iowa. That post also looked at three of the many possible ways Iowa could be drawn into four Congressional districts. The redrawn third district, containing much of the Des Moines area, is likely to be a battleground seat in 2012.
UPDATE: I forgot to link to this guest post by possumtracker1991, who tried to figure out what Iowa’s four Congressional districts might look like if we had politicized redistricting. As ludicrous as that map is, it’s no sillier than some real maps used in states like Pennsylvania and Florida.