Are Republicans plotting to politicize Iowa redistricting?

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a group focused on state legislative elections, hopes to win control of the Iowa House and Senate in order to “neutralize” Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting, according to a July 2010 strategy memo of the RSLC’s “REDMAP” program. The memo (pdf) sets a goal of creating “20-25 new Republican Congressional Districts through the redistricting process.” Iowa is among 12 states targeted in the REDMAP program, because our state will lose one of its five Congressional districts after the 2010 census.

The REDMAP Political Report says in a chart on page 6 that if Republicans win the Iowa House and Senate, the “Congressional impact” would be to “neutralize the redistricting process,” since Iowa’s legislature “can override” the state’s redistricting commission. In our state’s unique redistricting system, the Legislative Services Agency prepares a map using

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.

The legislature can accept or reject the proposed map, but cannot amend it. If the RSLC is suggesting that Democrats would tamper with redistricting unless Republicans win control of the state legislature, their fear-mongering is misguided. Speaking to Mike Glover of the Associated Press last month, Democratic House Speaker Pat Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal confirmed that they will not attempt to change the redistricting system.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen also praised Iowa’s redistricting process in comments to Glover. But the RSLC memo leaves open the question of whether a Republican-controlled legislature would seek to override the commission. In 2001, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature rejected the Legislative Services Agency’s first map but accepted the second. Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 described the objections raised against the first 2001 redistricting proposal.

Since Iowa Republican leaders are eager to tamper with our state’s highly regarded judicial selection process, it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to mess around with our redistricting too.

The best way to prevent Republican interference with next year’s redistricting is to keep them in the Iowa House and Senate minority. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to volunteer for or donate to one or more Democratic candidates in statehouse districts. (It’s easy to contribute through ActBlue.) The following candidates in competitive races could especially use your help:

Democratic incumbents targeted by Republicans: McKinley Bailey (HD 9), John Beard (HD 16), Andrew Wenthe (HD 18), Doris Kelley (HD 20), Gene Ficken (HD 23), Donovan Olson (HD 48), Eric Palmer (HD 75), Nathan Reichert (HD 80), Phyllis Thede (HD 81), Larry Marek (HD 89), Curt Hanson (HD 90), Mike Reasoner (HD 95), Rich Olive (SD 5), Bill Heckroth (SD 9), Staci Appel (SD 37), Becky Schmitz (SD 45).

Democratic candidates defending open seats: David Dawson (HD 1), Chris Hall (HD 2), John Wittneben (HD 7), Susan Bangert (HD 8), Kurt Meyer (HD 14), Anesa Kajtazovic (HD 21), Mary Wolfe (HD 26), Dan Kelley (HD 41), Shari Carnahan (HD 84), Rick Mullin (SD 1), Tod Bowman (SD 13).

Democrats running for Republican-held seats: Selden Spencer (HD 10), Mark Seidl (HD 37), Dan Muhlbauer (HD 51), Andrew McDowell (HD 59), Scott Ourth (HD 74), Kurt Hubler (HD 99).

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