Branstad signs redistricting bill

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | APRIL 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Gov. Terry Branstad approved Iowa's Congressional and legislative redistricting plan Tuesday — which garnered bipartisan support from the state House and Senate — and the state now has one fewer seat in the U.S. House and several politicans in different districts.

Remapping became necessary after the 2010 U.S. Census recorded population shifts in Iowa. In Iowa, a nonpartisan Legislative Serves Agency draws up potential new boundaries based on the census without taking politics in into consideration, unlike many states which have politicans involved.

Branstad signed House Bill 682 Tuesday morning at the State Capitol. The new plan will force several incumbent congressmen and state legislators to be placed in the same districts, resulting in a fair and competitve lineup, politicians and experts said.

"Iowa is one of the first states in the country to reach an agreement on this," Branstad said in a released video taken during the signing. "The bill passed by overwhelming margins in both the House and the Senate. It is truly a nonpartisan approach."

The new maps will not be used until the 2012 elections, said State Auditor Dave Vaudt, who noted he has not heard of any concerns with the new plan .

Many agree the plan is fair, but some legislators will undoubtedly move to new districts rather than compete with other incumbents.

Under the plan, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, would have been moved to the 1st District with Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa. Loebsack will move to Johnson County to run in the 2nd District, said Eric Witte, an aide for the congressman.

Loebsack is looking for a home in the area, Witte said, but he could not speculate about any time frame for the move.

"[Loebsack] spends a lot of time in Johnson County and thought it would be a great fit," Witte said, and the representative is "just looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead."
Braley said he'll stay in the 1st District.

"While the boundaries of my district will change in 2012, my commitment to listening, working hard, and getting things done for my current constituents won't," he said in a statement.

Like him, many state legislators plan to stay put.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he has no plans to move. He will lose several of his current precincts, including one to Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. He will also lose Tiffin and North Liberty.

"I live right in the heart of the district," Jacoby said. "That's where I'm going to stay."

And Jacoby said he is in support of the new redistricting law.

"I'm glad the governor signed it," he said. "Frankly, I don't see how he could not sign it."

The fact that his district will be physically smaller is acceptable because, overall, there is growth in Coralville, Jacoby said.

"It just shows that we are in a high-growth area and we live in a county where a lot of people like to live and move to," he said.

While the plan isn't perfect, it is fair, said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science associate professor.

"On a Congressional level, I don't know how you could've gotten any closer between lack of variance in population," he said. "It's pretty compact."

Hagle said because the House and the Senate showed such strong support for the new plan, it would have been tough for Branstad to reject it, unless he could point out a specific flaw.

The bill passed both the state House and Senate on April 14. Seven representatives and one senator voted against the new maps. None of the dissenters returned calls seeking comment.

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