Iowa redistricting predictions, part 4: Story County

Evan Burger previously wrote about Iowa Congressional and state legislative redistricting scenarios. -promoted by Laura Belin

Today I’ll continue my ongoing series on redistricting with a deeper dive on Iowa legislative redistricting, using Story County as a case study. A few general updates to start:

First, the partisan battle lines over Iowa redistricting are starting to shape up. According to several press reports, including this recent Des Moines Register article, Republican leaders are floating the idea of suing the Census Bureau to get data earlier than September 30th:

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Court order clears path for more diverse juries in Iowa

For decades, researchers have found that all-white juries are more likely to convict Black defendants than white defendants, and that Black people “are systematically more likely to be excluded from juries in many contexts.” In addition, studies indicate diverse juries “perform their fact-finding tasks more effectively,” and have been shown to “deliberate longer, consider more facts, make fewer incorrect facts, correct themselves more, and have the benefit of a broader pool of life experiences […].”

In a 2017 decision that gave defendants of color another way to challenge unrepresentative jury pools, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized, “Empirical evidence overwhelmingly shows that having just one person of color on an otherwise all-white jury can reduce disparate rates of convictions between black and white defendants.” Yet African Americans have continued to be under-represented in Iowa jury pools and on trial juries.

A recent Iowa Supreme Court order takes a step toward addressing that disparity in the state’s criminal justice system.

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Iowa Republicans don't want to wait for accurate census data

Iowa Republican legislators want to avoid leaving redistricting in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver indicated during a March 12 legislative forum in Ankeny. In fact, GOP leaders may follow the state of Ohio’s lead in suing the U.S. Census Bureau to obtain the 2020 population data sooner.

The bureau has said it will send states the numbers they need to conduct redistricting by September 30, more than seven months later than usual. Under Iowa law, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) is to submit plans for new legislative and Congressional districts by April 1. The state constitution calls for the legislature to adopt a map of Iowa House and Senate districts by September 1. If the map hasn’t become law by September 15, authority over redistricting moves to the Iowa Supreme Court, which is to have a new legislative map drawn by December 31.

Whitver told the Ankeny audience he didn’t know how Republicans would approach the problem, adding, “We’re looking at all options, and everything from suing the Census Bureau to make sure that we get that data to any other options on the table.”

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Prospects for overturning Iowa's voter suppression law

Less than 24 hours after Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law new limits on every way to vote in Iowa, attorneys representing the League of United Latin American Citizens in Iowa (LULAC) filed the first lawsuit challenging Senate File 413. Plaintiffs argue the law is “fatally unconstitutional” because it imposes many new burdens on voting, with no justification and no “unifying theme other than making both absentee and election day voting more difficult for lawful Iowa voters.” The named defendants are Secretary of State Paul Pate (the state elections commissioner) and Attorney General Tom Miller (who supervises the county attorneys who would prosecute violations of the law).

The suit filed on March 9 won’t be the only litigation to test Senate File 413. The Libertarian Party of Iowa intends to challenge the much higher signature thresholds for third-party and independent candidates, state party chair Mike Conner Jr. confirmed to Bleeding Heartland. I briefly discuss those potential claims near the end of this post.

But restrictions on voting, especially early voting, are the centerpiece of the new law and the focus of LULAC’s lawsuit. Lead attorney Marc Elias summed up the case on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show on March 9, saying, “Iowa had good, clean elections this November, as they have in the past, and without any reason other than to make voting harder, Iowa made voting harder.”

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Iowa redistricting predictions, part 3: Legislative overview

Evan Burger speculates on how statutory requirements for drawing new Iowa House and Senate districts could impact partisan control of the legislature during the 2020s. -promoted by Laura Belin

Last month, I wrote about the rules governing Iowa’s Congressional redistricting process, and made some predictions. For this post, I’ll do the same for the legislative side of redistricting – but first, a quick mention of two related developments since my last piece. 

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