The first Resolution that Congressional Democrats introduced after taking control in January fundamentally changes the fair and nonpartisan redistricting model that Iowa has used for nearly 40 years to draw congressional district lines. This new commission injects politics into redistricting by requiring that members of the commission be registered with a political party. The bill requires 5 members to be from the controlling political party in the state, 5 members from the minority political party in the state, and 5 members that are political independents. The resolution also allows members of the commission to donate an aggregate of $20,000 to candidates for all political offices during the “covered period” of the bill.
The criteria that the Commission is required to follow under HR 1 includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Districts shall provide racial, ethnic, and language minorities with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of choice and shall not dilute or diminish their ability to elect candidates of choice whether alone or in coalition with others.
- Districts shall minimize the division of communities of interest, neighborhoods, and political subdivisions to the extent practicable. A community of interest is defined as an area with recognized similarities of interests, including but not limited to ethnic, economic, social, cultural, geographic or historic identities. The term communities of interest may, in circumstances, include political subdivisions such as counties, municipalities, or school districts, but shall not include common relationships with political parties, officeholders, or political candidates.
- The redistricting plan developed by the independent redistricting commission shall not, when considered on a Statewide basis, unduly favor or disfavor any political party.
Iowa’s current fair and nonpartisan redistricting process has been in place since for nearly 40 years. The Iowa Legislature enacted a nonpartisan redistricting method for drawing congressional and legislative boundaries in 1980. The Legislature felt that it was important to take politics out of redistricting and put the Legislative Service Agency (LSA) in charge of drawing the map. LSA is solely responsible for preparing each proposed redistricting plan. LSA shall have no interaction or involvement with the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission, legislators, or any outside interest while plans are developed and selected. Since it was enacted the Iowa Legislature has always accepted the maps drawn up by the LSA. The criteria that LSA follows can be found in IA Code Ch. 42. A few of the highlights include:
- Nearly equal as practicable to the ideal population for the district.
- Counties should not be split amongst Congressional district and larger political subdivisions should be split before smaller ones.
- The districts should be compact.
- The purpose shall not be to favor one political party or incumbent legislature.
House Resolution 1 in Congress needlessly injects politics into Iowa’s redistricting system. There’s no reason to change a process in Iowa that is respected throughout the country and is working well. The plan by Congressional Democrats to politicize Iowa’s redistricting system is bad news for Iowans. Iowa’s current process is designed to minimize partisan politics. But that’s apparently not good enough for Democrat politicians.
The Iowa redistricting process is a model example for how states can avoid the partisan political battles that are so prevalent in Washington, D.C. Corruption, gerrymandering and other issues may be problems in other states, but they are not issues in Iowa. Nor should Congressional Democrats be permitted to inject politics into an already nonpartisan redistricting process.