Sunday, April 17, 2011

Redistricting: Iowa Style

Lucas County, split up the middle into newly reconfigured state House districts 27 and 28, is among the losers (in a mild sort of way) under post-2010-census redistricting plans approved last week by the Iowa Legislature.

“Loser” is true, however, only in the sense that most of us who live here probably would have preferred to be in the same House district. No one’s complaining about the scrupulously nonpartisan redistricting process used in Iowa, generally considered among the best, if not the best, in the nation. Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to approve the plan next week.

Richard Arnold of Russell, lamentably a Republican, currently represents all of Lucas County in House District 72, which also includes all of Monroe County, lower Marion County and roughly the west half of Mahaska.

Under the new plan, the city of Chariton plus Otter Creek, Jackson, White Breast Union and Warren Townships will be combined with all of Wayne, Decatur and Clarke counties to form District 27.

Richard, who lives in Benton Township, will be the only resident incumbent (providing I’m reading things right) in reconfigured House District 28, which includes the Lucas County townships of Liberty, English, Pleasant, Lincoln (save Chariton), Cedar, Benton and Washington as well a substantial portion of Marion County and part of Jasper County.

The only House incumbent in Chariton's new House district, No. 27, is Republican Joel Fry, 36, of Osceola, elected to his first term in 2010. He heads up TEAM Restoration Ministries, which seems to be a right-wing Christian counseling service, and also preaches although it’s not clear (to me) for whom. Given the choice between two evils (aka Republicans), I’d take old Richard any day.

God spare us preachers in the Legislature --- unless they’re Democrats, of course. I would never want to be accused of being nonpartisan.


Paul McKinley, another regrettable Republican, currently represents Senate District 36, which includes Lucas, Monroe and Marion counties as well as roughly the west half of Mahaska and a small chunk of Jasper.

Under the redistricting plan, Senate District 14 (in which Paul is the only resident incumbent) will include Lucas, Clarke, Decatur and Wayne Counties plus all of Marion save the Pella region and areas of southeast Jasper --- a substantially larger district geographically but more logically regional.

Although Iowa grew between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, it didn’t grow fast enough to avoid losing one of its four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The newly-reconfigured congressional district map moves Lucas County from the Third District (which includes Des Moines) into the Second District --- roughly all of southeast Iowa including the Peoples Republic of Johnson County. I love that, although being paired up with Des Moines was fine.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, incumbent in the Second District, was moved into the First District along with his home county of Linn (Cedar Rapids). Fellow Democrat Bruce Braley, of Waterloo, already represents the First District.

As a result, Loebsack and his family will carpet-bag across the county line into Johnson so that he can run for re-election in the Second District (14 of the 15 counties he previously represented remain in the Second Distict with Lucas, Monroe, Marion, Jasper, Mahaska and Keokuk counties added to it).

Democrat Leonard Boswell, who currently represents Lucas County in District Three, has been redistricted into a reconfigured District Three that will include much of southwest Iowa, including Des Moines and its western and southern suburbs.

Republican Tom Latham, whose old north central district has for the most part been swallowed by the vast District 4 containing much of north central and northwest Iowa, will pack his carpet bag and move from Ames to Des Moines to challenge Boswell in Distirct 3.

That will leave the freakish Republican incumbent Steve King as the only candidate in the Fourth District which still includes Sioux City, but picked up Mason City and Ames.

Glad I don’t still live in Mason City. There’s a good possibility King might end up representing Cerro Gordo County in Washington, D.C. Yikes! Better work hard up that way boys and girls.


Iowa started redistricting the right way during 1980 by turning the job over to an agency called the Legislative Service Agency, which also manages the legislative library, computer services and legal drafting.

The agency handles redistricting in as nonpartisan a way as probably is possible, with population equality (one person, one vote) the major factor to consider. When possible, proposed districts are to follow existing boundaries of political subdivisions (counties, for example) and avoid splitting counties and cities into more than one district (it apparently wasn’t possible to avoid splitting Lucas this time around). The districts also are supposed to be as compact as possible, avoiding bizarre shapes and extensions when possible.

The agency may not consider voter registration data, officeholders’ addresses, previous election results or population data other than census head counts.

All in all, it’s an excellent system --- something both Democrats and Republicans endorse --- and bipartisan endorsement is rare these days.

1 comment:

John said...

The People's Republic gladly welcomes you to the 2nd, Lucas! (and the capcha word is - not making this up - "redisc")