The first lines are drawn in Iowa’s decennial legislative redistricting process — and the changes could have real impacts in Des Moines and Washington D.C., if approved.
The proposed maps, which use population changes found by the 2020 Census, were drafted by the Iowa Legislative Services Agency and released on Thursday.
The effects of these potential changes are on full display in local counties. For instance, they tie Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson counties to a whole different congressional district.
Currently, those and Jones counties currently are all in Iowa’s First Congressional District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson. Under the proposed map, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson counties would join Iowa’s Second Congressional District — currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Jones County would remain in the First Congressional District.
The proposed map, in part, trades counties between the current districts, resulting in a kind of geographical flip. The proposed First District would have the most populous counties of both current districts and grow smaller geographically to 10 counties, from 20. The proposed Second District would then take on more of the current First’s more rural counties, as well as less populous, but still urban counties including Dubuque County.
University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer said that would mean a tough 2022 for both incumbents if the map stays true.
“The flip between the First and Second as far as geographical location produces challenges for both Congresswoman Hinson and Miller-Meeks, in terms of having to meet a whole new voter base,” he said.
And all told, Loras College political science professor Chris Budzisz said the map would likely make the proposed Second District redder and the proposed First District bluer.
“With the new proposed map, that Democratic advantage in terms of voter registration in the district that would cover Dubuque and the area is gone,” he said. “You would still get Waterloo, but you would lose most of that Cedar Rapids area. Then you add some more rural counties past Waterloo. It’s a district that’s more rural and, therefore, more friendly to Republicans.”
What is left of the First District, as proposed, would be a less friendly environment for Hinson, according to Budzisz.
“Dubuque is going to be in with 25 other counties,” he said. “Then the proposed First District would have half the number of counties, because they put Cedar Rapids in with that Quad Cities area. That will become more Democratic, in terms of regular voters.”
That, Budzisz said, could be a deal breaker for the Republican Party in the Iowa Legislature, who would need to support the map for it to be put in place.
“The congressional lines are probably the ones that Republicans will dislike the most,” he said. “Seeing what’s happening with the First District, for instance. There may be some push, especially with (Hinson’s) ties to the state legislature, to say ‘Wait a second, I think we can get a better map out of this.’”
Miller-Meeks was also an Iowa State Representative before winning her seat in 2020, by a mere six votes over former U.S. Rep. Rita Hart, a one-term Democrat.
The only Democrat currently running for Iowa’s Second Congressional District (as currently drawn) is Iowa Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, who would be out of the proposed district. The only Democrat currently running for the First Congressional District is Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha. She would still be in the First as proposed.
In any case, Budzisz reckons eastern Iowa will get a lot of attention during the upcoming redistricting special sessions of the state legislature.
“Nobody’s worried about the Fourth District. The Fourth District will be what it is,” he said. “It’s really about the First and Second, and Third. But with the Third, it’s hard to see Dallas and Polk Counties being split. That would pose some big problems as far as population equality and compactness.”
Larimer said with the Third and Fourth Districts locked in place, it’s hard to say how different the maps could be.
“There are really only so many ways you can divide up the state of Iowa, especially since eight of the 10 urban centers are in central and eastern Iowa,” he said. “If (the Republican majority) send it back to the LSA, I don’t know that they would get anything more favorable. It’s just the different combinations of where you put Linn, Johnson and Scott counties versus Blackhawk and Dubuque counties.”
Ethics complaint against Iowa mask mandate ban law
In addition to legal challenges, Waukee parent Erin Dahl this week filed ethics complaints against all Iowa State Senators who voted in favor of the bill that banned local government and school boards from enacting mask mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“The Senator ignored the extreme risk posed to the Disabled and Medically Vulnerable students, their families and the Disabled/Medically Vulnerable in our community at large as this spreads virus throughout our state, making every place in Iowa an unsafe place,” Dahl’s complaint read.
In response, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, requested that the Senate Ethics Committee dismiss the complaint, which it did.
“Individuals who are concerned with the application of a law should avail themselves of the legal process in the court system, not through the Senate Ethics Committee,” Whitver’s letter read. “There is an inherent problem with the premise of filing an ethics complaint because an individual does not agree with the law that was approved.”
Iowa Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, while reiterating her opposition to the law in question, also said this week that the legal path was the more appropriate for Dahl to take.
The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers endorsed former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, in her bid for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.
3 p.m. today, Wahlert Curriculum Library at Loras College, 1450 Alta Vista St. — Iowa Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, presents the first of two local appearances by Paul Miller, urban conservationist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. As part of his presentation, Miller will address rainfall trends and illustrate practices or projects getting completed across the state and how they function on the land. Masks required at Loras College.
5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, University of Dubuque Science Center — The second in the series from Isenhart and Miller.