Hope for new Iowa maps before September deadline?

Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency (LSA) may be able to use population data from the 2020 census as early as sometime in August, the agency’s senior legal counsel Ed Cook revealed today. The news increases the chance that a nonpartisan map could be prepared in time for state lawmakers to meet a constitutional deadline for approving new maps of legislative districts.

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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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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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Democratic election bill would preserve Iowa's redistricting

Iowa would be exempt from one part of a wide-ranging election reform bill the U.S. House approved on March 3 on a mostly party-line 220 to 210 vote. This document explains each section of H.R.1, also known as the For the People Act. In her explainer for Vox, Ella Nilsen provided bullet points on the main provisions, which fall into three broad categories: “expanding voting rights, implementing campaign finance reform, and beefing up ethics laws for members of Congress.”

The bill won’t advance in the U.S. Senate unless Democrats limit the use of the filibuster, which at least two senators now oppose. But if they come around, President Joe Biden has indicated he would sign the bill.

H.R. 1 would ban partisan gerrymandering for federal elections, requiring states to use independent redistricting commissions to draw Congressional districts instead. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) successfully advocated for language that would allow Iowa to keep the nonpartisan process used here since 1981.

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