Mar 9, 2022 - Politics

Polk County could see shakeup as redistricting process stirs confusion

Proposed Polk county supervisor districts
Data: The Iowa Legislative Services Agency; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Redistricting confusion has left Polk County supervisors with no choice but to approve new maps that lump the majority of them into two districts, according to state documents obtained by Axios and statements supervisors made Tuesday.

Why it matters: It spells an almost certain shakeup of one of Iowa's most influential elected bodies.

Driving the news: Supervisors agreed in a 4-1 vote Tuesday to defer official acceptance of the maps.

  • They're holding a public meeting Wednesday morning to review whether there are any other options.

State of play: Under the proposed maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA), Chairperson Angela Connolly and Tom Hockensmith, both Democrats, live in the new No. 5 district.

  • Matt McCoy, a Democrat, and Bob Brownell, a Republican, live in No. 1.

Catch up fast: This is the first redistricting cycle where Polk supervisor maps are drawn by the LSA after Republican lawmakers changed a law that previously allowed a county-appointed commission to do the work.

  • The first proposed maps were released on Feb. 22, weeks after they were expected due to delays caused by the pandemic and census.
  • Supervisors rejected them on March 1, believing they could accept or amend a second proposal.
  • The Iowa Secretary of State's Office this week — citing Iowa law — informed the county they must accept the second map.

Between the lines: Iowa law requires supervisors to approve redistricting no later than 90 days after congressional and legislative districts become law.

What they're saying: Supervisors believed a Feb. 2 deadline was not in play because the SOS "blew past every statutory deadline in the code up to this point," Ralph Marasco, Jr., an assistant Polk County attorney, told supervisors in a public meeting Tuesday.

  • The SOS hasn't been responsive to the county attorney's office or the auditor but he said he thinks its interpretation of the law is flawed, he said.

McCoy, on the other hand, urged the board to adopt the maps, saying further delays would unnecessarily impede democracy since candidates must submit papers to run for the office by March 25.

Of note: The SOS did not respond to Axios' inquiry Tuesday.

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