Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
With new Census data on the books, Washington County’s redistricting committee has made its pitch to county officials for the next decade’s political boundaries.
While the changes don’t pit any county supervisors against one another, they do shake up each official’s represented area, and entail big changes in many voters’ polling places.
County Auditor Dan Widmer said he was impressed with the redistricting committee’s work under a schedule tightened by delays in the Census, state redistricting process, and subsequent city redistricting processes.
“Due to some circumstances beyond our control, this whole process was condensed because this all has to be completed by Jan. 15, and we just started on this about Dec. 15,” he said. “For example, 10 years ago, they were taking these same steps in August.”
Under the proposed map, each county district contains a number from 4,505-4,524 voters, a tight margin for the county of around 22,000. With the information now public, the maps now go to the Board of Supervisors for three public readings. While the county hopes to wave the third, Widmer said delays were possible, and that proposed changes, while likely, weren’t necessarily set in stone.
“I didn’t hear any complaints from the supervisors, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we can dispense with the third reading, but that’s up to the supervisors,” Widmer said. “There’s the process we have to follow, and it’s conceivable something might come to light … if you ask me what it would be, I have no idea.”
While the changes don’t put any of the county’s current supervisors against one another in the next election, Widmer said that was a coincidental outcome.
“We did not bring up where current supervisors are located or represented so that they could … make independent decisions” he said. “They weren’t influenced by, ‘Oh, well, we don’t want to do this because then we’ll have two supervisors facing off.’”
The areas some districts represent will change drastically, however, most notably in the cities Brighton, Riverside and Washington.
While Brighton was formerly part of District 3, it now falls into District 1, represented by Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. in a region shared with Wellman, West Chester and miles of unincorporated farmland. The expansion also stretches far enough into Marion township to capture a handful of voters in Coppock.
As for Riverside, which previously shared a district with most of Kalona and virtually nobody else, the city would now fall under District 3, represented by Supervisor Marcus Fedler, along with Crawfordsville, Ainsworth, and every township sharing Highway 218.
As for Washington, the city still is divided roughly in half between Districts 4 and 5, represented by Supervisors Stan Stoops and Richard Young, respectively. But where the city was previously split between east and west, it is now split along an adjacent line, with the north half in District 5 and the south in District 4.
Under the redrawn districts, voters in Washington County can expect to see a handful of changes to their polling places, with each district allowed exactly two precincts.
As District 1 adds the population center of Brighton, the city will continue to be a precinct in its new district. That status, however, comes at a cost to West Chester. The small town of 144 will now have to vote in Wellman, along with every other voter in the area north of Highway 92.
In District 2, which would now include Kalona and no other incorporated areas, a precinct would be added in Richmond, covering nearly every unincorporated area in the township other than its northeast corner.
Riverside is set to maintain its precinct title under the move, but Crawfordsville voters will lose the status, leaving residents to drive north to Ainsworth on Election Day.
Meeks acknowledged that no map would be a win for everyone, but said the new maps were the net best for voters while keeping a fair, representative system.
“There’s no way to make everybody happy,” she said. “But I think it will make some of the voters happier about certain situations.”