Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Iowa State Senate sent redistricting maps back to the drawing board Tuesday after an 18-32 party line vote.
“Senate File 620 may meet statutory requirements, however there are opportunities for these maps to be improved,” District 47 Sen. Roby Smith (R) said. “This map includes a triangle, a pyramid, a figure eight, and a district that is so irregular, it looks like the 1800s salamander known for gerrymandering.”
Some Democrats said they worried about the GOP-controlled legislature kicking the can down the road until a third draft of the maps, at which point the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) would step out of the process and allow for the legislature to make its own amendments.
“You move to the third plan, it will destroy this institution,” District 17 Sen. Tony Bisignano (D) said. “When we can amend the plan, we file for our own interests, our selfish interests, not the Iowans’ interest, not the community’s interest, our own interest.”
The LSA has 35 days to return a second draft of the maps. In the meantime, state legislators have time to make their wishes known.
Henry County legislators: “It needs some work.”
District 42 Sen. Jeff Reichman (R) felt that the distribution of the districts could be weighed more sufficiently, saying they were around a C+ rating.
"There are deviations there that shouldn't be," he said. "There were districts that were on the high end of the population scale, and there were 18 or more that were on the bottom end as far as population distribution. We need to make sure everyone gets equally represented."
Reichman said the maps need to be more condensed.
"There are rules how they’re to be drawn up," he said. "The boundaries need to be concise. They need to be made as small as possible. I think there is some art that goes into that."
State Rep. Joe Mitchell (R) reiterated Reichman’s points, saying the administering of the districts was out of order.
"The congressional maps weren't condensed enough," Mitchell said. "One congressional district had around 46 counties. It's like running a statewide race at that point. Then you had our district that had eight or nine counties. It didn't make sense that all the rural districts were in one district. The compactness was the problem the Senate saw."
Mitchell suspected a second map would be composed within a month.
"We will probably get a second map in at least 20 days," he said. "We will vote that yes or no. It has the potential to go to a third map after that if time allows it to happen. That's the timeline your looking at."
Jefferson County’s Sen. Dickey disputes accusations
District 41 Sen. Adrian Dickey (R) who represents Jefferson, Davis and Van Buren Counties, said he had improvements in mind for the maps.
“The Congressional, Senate and House maps did not meet the compactness that I was looking for,” he said. “I believe a better map will be drawn to improve compactness and to keep population levels within the desired tolerances.”
Dickey denied accusations that state Republicans sought to control the process themselves.
“Our state has a non-partisan redistricting process that rejects gerrymandering and rejecting the first map does not change that process in any way,” he said. “While the redistricting process occurs just every 10 years, this is not the first time a map has been rejected using the same process, and part of that process allows for improvements. I look forward to carefully reviewing the second plan.”
Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican who represents House District 82, did not respond to a request for comments.
No major concerns among Washington County legislators
District 39 Sen. Kevin Kinney (D,) voted yes on Tuesday’s redistricting maps, saying they were sufficiently impartial.
“I felt that it was a process that was bipartisan and I felt that it was fair,” he said. “There’s changes that I’m sure are going to happen, but we’ll wait and see what happens. At this point it’s still being done by the LSA legislative service agency, but it is a fair and impartial drawing of a map, that’s all I can ask for.”
Despite his affirmative vote, Kinney didn’t express any major concerns with the maps being sent back to the drawing board.
“I just want to make sure that it is an impartial map, and I think that’s what the voters in Iowa want and expect,” he said.
State Rep. Jarad Klein (R,) said he had no issue with the first draft, but hesitated to second guess the senate’s decision.
“While I felt the maps, as they were drawn, were fair and done the way LSA does their things in a bipartisan manner, I’m also not going to cast doubt on the Senate,” he said. “I understand where they’re coming from. A couple of these districts, they’re a little weird in their definitions and how they’re drawn out.”
Klein declined to back any changes to the map one way or the other.
“I have nothing in mind, I’ll see what LSA comes up with,” he said. “They have the data and the criteria to follow to put the maps together, and we’ll see what they come back with.”