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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Redistricting Iowa

Iowa is one of those states that has lost a congressional seat as a result of the 2010 Census. It had five districts and now it will only have four. In practice, that means that two of the sitting Congressmen will have to run against each other. Right now, Iowa is represented by three Democrats and two Republicans. While both Republicans won handily, all three Democrats won by only from 2 to 5.07%. One way or another, the loss is going to have to cost one of the Democrats his seat unless the redistricting is gerrymandered to favor the Democrats. That is not going to happen because the Democrats only control the State Senate while the Republicans control the State House and the Governorship.

This means that if the Democrat Senate cannot work out a compromise with the Republicans in the House, this whole battle will wind up in court where anything can happen. The court will not care about keeping incumbent Congressmen in separate districts or being opposed to creating a district which has no incumbent in it at all. The Court will only be concerned about making the population in each of the four districts equal to one-fourth of the population of the state, which is 3,053,787. We speak from experience in having designed the first three redistricting plans for the State of Arizona many years ago and then testifying in federal court in behalf of the plans.

The criteria we used was compactness, keeping incumbents separated, equal population and allowing precincts that voted similarly to be clustered together to form districts so as to avoid gerrymandering. The court frowned on any criteria except equal population. Actually the federal courts today would allow the original gerrymander in Massachusetts where all the precincts voting for the Whigs were put into one district so that they would at least be represented by someone who would vote according to their wishes. Gerrymandering today means burning one party at the expense of the other one. You do this by creating districts that have 60% of precincts voting for the party you are helping and 40% of them voting for the other party so that you waste those votes and can create more districts for the favored party.

In practice gerrymandering creates long skinny districts that reach from the part of town that favors one party down into the part that favors the other party but not as deeply in one end as in the other favored end. Neutral redistricting will create districts that are more or less square or at least combine counties that have similar economic and social outlooks. Gerrymandering in Iowa is easy because we have two sets of pairs of incumbents that live quite close to each other. It is easy to dump these two pairs into the same district and then create an open district. It is possible to keep these two pairs separated but there still has to be one district that has two incumbents running against each other.

The Democrats in Iowa will want to have the two Republicans run against each other in hopes of getting three Democrats and only one Republican in 2012. The Republicans will want two of the Democrats to run against each other in hopes of beating the third one and winding up with three Republicans and one Democrat. The fair way to do things would be to have one of the Republicans run against one of the Democrats so that the Democrats and Republicans each get one district and the other two will be up for grabs. Given where the various incumbents live, there is only one way to do this although one can make some agjustments around the edges.

Right now, population data is only available down to the county level but it is still possible to create four districts of just about equal size without crossing any county lines. In the spirit of getting a discussion going we have created a proposed redistricting of Iowa into four districts that the Republicans and Democrats might be able to compromise on to avoid winding up in court where all bets are off.

New Congressional Districts for Iowa Map

The above map shows the districts we are suggesting that the Iowa legislature could compromise on at least as a starting point. The five towns shown are where the five incumbents live. The four districts break down with the following figures:

Incumbents 2010 Population Deviation % Deviation
New Congressional Districts Figures
Loebsack (D)
765,897 +2,450.25 +0.3209%
Braley (D) - Latham (R)
764,647 +1,200.25 +0.1572%
Boswell (D)
760,819 -2,627.75 -0.3442%
King (R)
762,424 -1,022.75 -0.1340%
Total/Average 3,053,787 +/-1,825.25 +/-0.2391%