Nov 22, 2021 - Politics

Iowa's next redistricting battle will be local

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This year’s redistricting saga isn’t over: Iowa officials are now gearing up to redraw precinct and ward boundaries for school, city and county seats.

Why it matters: Even minor boundary changes can lead to leadership shakeups.

  • Example: Polk County Supervisor Tom Hockensmith represented a different district prior to the last redistricting a decade ago.

Driving the news: This is the first redistricting cycle since Republican lawmakers changed Iowa law three years ago and removed much of the power of county-appointed commissions to draw maps for supervisor seats.

  • The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) now handles the process for the 39 Iowa counties that require voters to choose a candidate who lives in their district. (Other counties elect supervisors via at-large votes.)

Between the lines: It’s a power play.

  • Republicans like Rep. Zach Nunn of Bondurant in 2018 argued the old process was "corrupt, corrosive and clearly illegitimate."
  • Democrats said the change infringed on local control to dilute their influence.

State of play: Democratic supervisors are narrowly in the majority in the state’s two largest counties (Polk, 3-2; Linn, 2-1).

  • Both use an election plan that requires the LSA to draw its new boundaries.

What’s next: Local governments still draw boundaries for precincts, council and school board districts.

  • Polk County last week appointed a five-member panel to review unincorporated precinct boundaries.
  • Des Moines has tentatively scheduled a special City Council meeting to address redistricting on Nov. 30, city spokesman Al Setka told Axios last week.

Of note: Cities have 60 days and counties have 90 to complete maps after Iowa approved its new congressional and legislative districts on Nov. 4.


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