DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO-TV) — In a special session Tuesday, the Iowa Senate voted to reject the first set of maps redefining Iowa’s legislative and congressional districts.
The vote was 32-18 to reject Senate File 620 and came down along party lines. Republicans hold a majority in both the Iowa Senate and House.
The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency released its first draft of the redistricting maps last month.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican, called for improving the “compactness and population deviation” of some of the districts.
Iowa has a good redistricting process and by requesting a second map, the Senate has continued to follow that process today. Senate Republicans believe LSA can improve the compactness and population deviation of several districts by developing a second redistricting plan.
My colleagues and I look forward to reviewing that plan and its compliance with the criteria established in Iowa Code.Jack Whitver, Senate Majority Leader (R)
Following the vote, Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls issued a statement calling the move a step toward “rigging Iowa elections.”
Breaking with decades of non-partisan redistricting tradition, today Iowa Republicans took a big step closer to rigging Iowa elections.
The reasons given by Republican Senator Roby Smith on the floor ignored Iowa law and in fact demonstrated that there was no legitimate reason for Legislative Republicans to reject this first map. This was a fair map drawn by the nonpartisan, independent commission. It met all the requirements laid out in state law. This is an outrageous use of political power to rig elections in their favor.
We are in completely uncharted territory, due to unprecedented delays. Today, Iowa Republicans could have ended the uncertainty and demonstrated a commitment to our non-partisan tradition. Instead, they rejected the LSA’s non-partisan plan in a party line vote.
Iowans know partisan gerrymandering erodes democracy in other states. We’ve seen how special interests are strengthened and corruption grows in gerrymandered states.
That’s why gerrymandering not only strips the minority party of their power, it also hurts voters of the majority party – in this case Republican voters – by letting legislators disregard the will of voters. The extreme Republican agenda will become even more dominated by special interests, and the needs of farmers, smaller business owners, parents, and retirees will fall by the wayside.
Iowans, listen up. This is a clear signal Republicans are willing to use a partisan gerrymander to keep themselves in power, regardless of the will of we the people. Now is the time for Iowans to make their voices heard, contact their legislators, and demand that Republicans stop going down their dangerous road.Zach Walls, Iowa Senate Democratic Leader
Now that lawmakers have rejected the first maps, the LSA has 35 days to make changes. If the second draft of the maps is also rejected the LSA gets another 35 days to make a third revision.
The LSA is tasked, by Iowa law, with minimizing gerrymandering and political influence when it makes its initial drafting of the districts.