Common Good Iowa

Data and drafting maps right

Posted on October 22, 2021 at 9:44 AM by Mike Owen

Iowa's second reapportionment proposal is out and no doubt lots of folks are interested in the political impact. While that might be of great interest, it is not what lawmakers are supposed to consider in approving or rejecting it.
Ironically, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Iowa's chief elections official, posted on his official Facebook page the proposed congressional maps — not with criteria that the law demands for consideration, but party registration of voters.

Iowa law states:

“Legislative and congressional districts shall be established on the basis of population.”
Section 42.4(1)

“No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group, for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group. In establishing districts, no use shall be made of any of the following data:

“a. Addresses of incumbent legislators or members of Congress.

“b. Political affiliations of registered voters.

“c. Previous election results.

“d. Demographic information, other than population head counts, except as required by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Section 42.4(5)

The law also requires that districts for state legislators are as "compact" and "contiguous" as possible, consistent with population equality, respect for political subdivisions.

Yet, the chief elections official is promoting a look at the proposed map based on "political affiliations of registered voters,” specifically cited in law (above) as an invalid criterion.

In the Legislative Services Agency's report on the plan, Table 1 looks at a more appropriate measure than the Secretary of State is promoting: the miniscule population disparity in the four districts.

The ideal congressional district population is 797,592. The population deviation is 12-hundredths of 1 percent from the largest district to the smallest — or 94 people overall.

The report also notes (in Table 2) an average variance of less than three-tenths of 1 percent from the ideal Senate District population of 63,807, 1.56 percent from the largest to the smallest. And in Table 3, an average variance of less than four-tenths of 1 percent from the ideal House District population of 31,904, 1.75 percent from the largest to the smallest.

Meanwhile, for folks just itching to focus on the party registration numbers, three proposed congressional districts lean Democratic and one leans Republican. But in each case, no-party voters overwhelmingly make up the difference — and they hold a plurality of registered voters in both the proposed First and Second districts.

The implications in state House and Senate districts also will be examined and no doubt play a role in some decisions. So political analysts and prognosticators will have a field day with those numbers, and no doubt they will play a role in decisions, even if not spoken for fear of a legal challenge.

But wouldn't it be nice if legislators just voted on the nonpartisan merits of the plan as intended by the Constitution and the law? The data are there to do it right
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