Iowans, although divided by political parties and ideologies have not given in to the political hacks who would gerrymander congressional districts to favor one party or the other. It’s probably safe to assume though some on either side of the aisle would enjoy that very much. Recently published column in the Washington Post and a story in the New Your Times talks about Florida and tells about a story in which a greedy party and a greedy individual seemed to mutually benefit from from a weirdly drawn congressional map. So a Florida judge struck two congressional districts and so the process begins again.
Here in Iowa there is a particular process in place to achieve fairness and to benefit the voters, not the political parties or particular individuals. Midwest fairness maybe, and hopefully that will continue.
“Redistricting, the redrawing of congressional and legislative district boundaries, has always been a political process which has generally been fought at the state level.1 For both congressional and legislative districts, constitutional and statutory provisions generally required the drawing of district boundaries based in part upon population.2 However, until 1962 most states generally ignored any requirement to redistrict congressional and legislative districts based upon changes in the state’s population.
In 1962, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a person could challenge, and seek judicial redress for, an allegedly improper redistricting plan.3 As a result, state legislatures were forced to draw redistricting plans consistent with constitutional and statutory requirements or else be subject to having their congressional and legislative districts drawn by the courts.
This Legislative Guide is intended to provide some basic information concerning the process of redistricting in Iowa. Specifically, this Guide will discuss the relevant constitutional, statutory, and case law requirements that apply when establishing congressional and legislative district boundaries in Iowa. Code citations, unless otherwise noted, are to the 2007 Iowa Code and Iowa Code Supplement.”
It is also stated:
“Code section 42.4(1) requires that a congressional redistricting plan contain districts which have a population as nearly equal as practicable to the ideal population for a congressional district in the plan. Specifically, the Code provides that the deviation percentage variance for any congressional district in a redistricting plan shall not exceed 1 percent unless necessary to comply with constitutional requirements as provided in Article III, section 37, of the Iowa Constitution.36 Article III, section 37, of the Iowa Constitution provides that counties shall not be split between more than one congressional district and that a congressional district containing more than one county shall not be entirely separated by a county belonging to a different congressional district. Important to note, however, is that the Code provides that if a redistricting plan is challenged in court based upon an excessive population variance among districts, the General Assembly has the burden of justifying any deviation percentage variance in excess of 1 percent for any district in the plan.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically rejected authorizing a particular percentage variance, however calculated, as constitutionally permissible, strict reliance on the 1 percent deviation percentage variance threshold provided by the Code does not guarantee that a particular Iowa congressional redistricting plan would withstand a court challenge. To ensure that a congressional redistricting plan in Iowa meets constitutional requirements, a proposed congressional plan should attempt to meet the strict equality requirements established by the U.S. Supreme Court with deviations from that requirement specifically tied to identified state objectives as provided in the Iowa Constitution and the Code.”
Federal Constitutional Requirements.
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution has been interpreted to establish the basic requirement that state legislative districts be apportioned to achieve substantial equality of population among the various districts.
Article III, section 34, of the Iowa Constitution provides that state senatorial and representative districts be apportioned on the basis of population. This constitutional provision further provides that Iowa law may, consistent with the United States Constitution, establish other factors for apportioning senatorial districts, but only if the law does not result in a senatorial redistricting plan whereby a majority of senators could represent less than 40 percent of the state’s population.
After the 1970 census, controversy arose as to whether the Iowa General Assembly properly created a legislative redistricting plan in compliance with United States and Iowa constitutional requirements. The Iowa Supreme Court rejected the legislatively drawn redistricting plan45 and subsequently adopted its own redistricting plan for Senate and House districts following the 1970 census. The legislatively drawn plans rejected by the Iowa Supreme Court had an overall range percentage variance for the Senate of 3.2 percent and for the House of 3.8 percent. In finding these percentage variances excessive, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected establishing a certain de minimis standard regarding percentage variances which, if met, would justify any basis for how the individual districts were drawn. Instead, the court found that the percentage variances were excessive and avoidable, and were created for the unjustifiable purposes of protecting incumbents, preserving present districts, avoiding joining part of a rural county with an urban county, and ensuring the passage of the redistricting plan. Furthermore, the court found that the proposed legislative redistricting plan failed to meet the Iowa constitutional requirement of establishing districts of compact territory. After rejecting the legislative redistricting plan, the Iowa Supreme Court adopted its own plan based primarily on providing substantial voting equality of population in each district while endeavoring to create compact districts of contiguous territory. The plan provided for overall range percentage variances of approximately .05 percent for the Senate and .09 percent for the House.
In 1980, Code chapter 42, which includes provisions establishing standards for governing population equality, was enacted. Code section 42.4(1) provides that each Senate and House district in a redistricting plan shall have a population as nearly equal as practicable to the ideal population for a Senate or House district in that plan. Specifically, the Code provides that the mean deviation percentage variance for a Senate or House redistricting plan shall not exceed 1 percent and that the overall range percentage variance for a Senate or House plan shall not exceed 5 percent.
In addition, the Code provides that if a redistricting plan is challenged in court based upon an excessive population variance among districts, the General Assembly has the burden of justifying any deviation percentage variance in excess of 1 percent for any district in the plan.
In contrast to congressional redistricting, population equality standards for legislative redistricting as established by Code chapter 42 and as articulated by the Iowa Supreme Court in 197253 are generally stricter than those established by federal case law. As such, Iowa legislative redistricting plans that meet the population equality standards provided in Iowa law should be sufficient to withstand a federal or state court challenge based upon population equality.”