Republican pretexts for rejecting Iowa maps don't hold up

As expected, Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first nonpartisan redistricting plan on a party-line 32 to 18 vote on October 5. Everyone knows why the maps went down: national Republicans were upset the plan would have created a Democratic-leaning Congressional district in eastern Iowa, and Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because many of their incumbents would have been placed in districts with one another.

Republicans couldn’t say that out loud, though, because Iowa’s redistricting law states, “No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group […].”

So in Senate floor speeches and a resolution approved along party lines, Republicans asserted that the Legislative Services Agency could better balance compactness and population equality standards. They provided little evidence in support of those vague complaints.

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How Republicans could tank Iowa maps without full chamber votes

The Iowa House and Senate will convene on October 5 to consider the first redistricting plan submitted by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA).

When the maps were published on September 16, I agreed with the conventional wisdom that the GOP-controlled legislature would reject the proposal, because it creates a Democratic-leaning Congressional district in eastern Iowa and keeps Dallas County with Polk County in the third district. However, as the special session approaches, Republican sources increasingly expect the Iowa House to approve the plan–if it comes to a floor vote.

That’s why the Iowa Senate seems poised to reject the proposal, possibly without letting it reach the floor in either chamber.

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Redistricting commission opts not to advise lawmakers on Iowa map

Iowa’s Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission reported to the Iowa legislature on September 27 about public feedback on the first redistricting plan offered by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

In contrast to the last four redistricting cycles, the five-member commission did not recommend that state lawmakers accept or reject the proposal when they convene for a special session on October 5.

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Court gives Iowa politicians until December 1 to adopt new maps

Iowa Supreme Court justices finally let the public in on the secret.

Under Iowa’s constitution, authority to enact legislative maps (but not Congressional maps) passes to the high court after September 15. But a September 14 order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen gives the legislature and governor until December 1 “to prepare an apportionment in accord with Iowa Code chapter 42,” which outlines the redistricting process Iowa has used since 1981.

High-ranking Republicans have indicated for months that they expected the Iowa House and Senate to be able to vote on new maps after the constitutional deadline, but the judicial branch’s spokesperson would not confirm whether justices or their representatives gave private assurances to key lawmakers. Bleeding Heartland’s request for written correspondence between the chief justice and legislative leaders produced no responsive records.

The court could have clarified months ago that it planned to proceed in this manner. But better late than never.

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Four ways the Iowa Supreme Court may handle next big abortion case

The Iowa Supreme Court will soon revisit one of the most politically charged questions of our time.

Last week a Johnson County District Court permanently blocked the state from “implementing, effectuating or enforcing” a law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. Judge Mitchell Turner ruled the law unconstitutional on two grounds. The state is appealing the ruling and argues that a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court precedent, which established a fundamental right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution, was “wrongly decided.”

Republican lawmakers planned for this scenario when they approved the waiting period during the waning hours of the 2020 legislative session. They may get their wish, but a reversal of the 2018 decision is not guaranteed.

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