DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The first Iowa redistricting maps will be delivered on Sept. 16 beginning the process for redrawing political boundaries for legislative and congressional districts, a state official said Tuesday.
The nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency received updated software and U.S. Census Bureau data from a state vendor on Monday and will begin drawing new maps, said Ed Cook, legal counsel for the LSA, the agency responsible for providing redistricting maps under Iowa law.
The law allows LSA to take 45 days after it receives census data but Cook said he expects the work to be done in 35 days.
State law gives the five-member Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission 14 days to hold public hearings to gather public comment and prepare a report for the Iowa Legislature.
Three days after they receive the report, lawmakers may meet in special session to vote on the maps.
The commission met Tuesday to discuss the timeline with Cook, and members agreed to name former LSA employee Sue Lerdal as the group’s fifth member and chairwoman. It will meet again on Monday to discuss when and how to hold the public hearings and whether they will be held virtually since the state is experiencing increasing COVID-19 cases in most counties.
Republicans hold a majority in the Iowa Legislature so they will have the power to approve or reject the first set of maps. They must be approved or rejected without modification.
If rejected the LSA must within 35 days draw up a second set of maps and lawmakers again will vote them up or down. If that plan is rejected a third set is drawn by the LSA within 35 days and lawmakers may amend the maps like any other legislation before approving them.
In 2000 the legislature rejected the first set of maps but approved the second and in 2010 lawmakers approved the first set of maps.
The Iowa Constitution requires legislative districts to be enacted by lawmakers by Sept. 15, a deadline that cannot be met this year due to census data coming in later than usual as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Iowa Supreme Court is empowered to take over the process for legislative maps and ensure that they are completed if the deadlines are missed. It’s unclear how the court plans to handle the process but it said in April it would meet its constitutional responsibility by implementing a process that follows the law. Some have interpreted that as meaning the court would allow the normal process of legislative approval to take place even after the deadline but the court has not further commented on its plans.