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Summary of meeting with Jim Olson – The
Iowa Redistricting Process
Civic Caucus, 8301 Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Speaker – Civic Caucus member Jim
Present – Verne Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Jim Hetland, John Mooty
A. The Iowa redistricting process --In
1980, with support from the League of Women Voters, the Iowa General
Assembly enacted a statutory process that provides for the Iowa
Legislative Services Agency to draw congressional and legislative
districts, subject to legislative and gubernatorial approval. That
process, used in the 1981, 1991 and 2001 redistricting, remains intact
When the Iowa Legislative Services Agency prepares a plan, it is submitted
to the Legislature in bill form. Under law the Legislature and Governor
must accept or reject the first plan. It can't be amended. If the first
plan is rejected by the Legislature or Governor, the Legislature Services
Agency prepares a second plan, which also must be accepted or rejected
without amendment. If both the first and second plans are rejected, a
third plan is presented by the Agency. This time the Legislature is
allowed to amend the plan, it if chooses. If the third plan is not
adopted, the Iowa Supreme Court prepares and adopts a plan.
In 1981, the Legislature adopted the third plan, without amendments. In
1991 the Legislature adopted the first plan, and in 2001, the second plan.
In 1981 the Republicans were in control of the Legislature. In the
elections after 1981 redistricting, the Democrats regained control. In
1991 the Democrats were in control. In the elections after 1991, the
Republicans regained control. In 2001 the Republicans were in control, but
after the 2006 elections, Democrats regained control.
B. Introduction --Jim Olson, a member
of the Civic Caucus, had been asked to gather demographic and voter
information allowing a comparison of Iowa and Minnesota to determine if
Iowa’s congressional redistricting plan could be applied to Minnesota and
if so, with what impact. Verne introduced Jim and called the group’s
attention to his E-mail in advance of the meeting that included the basic
elements of the Iowa plan that are: equal population to vary by no more
than 1% of the average population for congressional districts; follow
county borders but if any counties had to be divided, they would be those
with the largest population and the districts should be of convenient,
contiguous territory. The rules were to be applied in the order listed
C. Background Information from Jim –
Apportionment has been based on a concept that recognizes a relatively
compact core of people. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the
districts had to be updated based on census information and there should
be equal population for each congressional district, a pattern that also
has been followed generally for legislative districts. However, there are
examples of redistricting in California, New York and Illinois in which
the congress members and/or their staffs designed the reapportionment
districts primarily to result in the re-election of the congress members.
In some states,(e.g., Iowa, Georgia) attempts have been made to set up a
series of rules for reapportionment. Some states set up a reapportionment
commission with or without rules and others set up rules that would drive
reapportionment in which the equal population requirement would be limited
in certain ways.
Other guidelines include keeping entire counties in the same congressional
district if at all possible which was a prime consideration for Iowa. In
addition Iowa had a requirement regarding the shape of the district which
should be compact. The Iowa Legislature passed a law regarding equality of
population that required each district within one percent of each other
D. The Outcome – The Iowa Legislative
Services Agency did the work on that state’s redistricting. Since members
of the Legislative Services Agency were employees of the legislature, the
legislators remained in control of the process, raising the question: Are
you willing to let a legislature continue to shape congressional
districts? Such action requires having enforceable rules to insure that
the reapportionment group doesn’t produce its own rules that guarantee the
reelection of incumbents.
E. Minnesota vis-à-vis Iowa – Jim
emphasized the differences between the two states. Iowa is relatively
“square” while Minnesota is twice as big north to south as it is east to
west. No single county in Iowa is large enough to constitute a
congressional district by itself. The population of the largest county in
Iowa has fewer than 400,000 residents.
In Minnesota, Hennepin County is almost large enough for two districts by
itself. Ramsey County is almost big enough for one by itself and the
surrounding counties are so large that it is difficult to develop options
that would include Hennepin, Ramsey and the surrounding area.
F. A Look at One Plan for Minnesota –
Jim presented a possible plan for Minnesota's eight congressional
districts, using numbers from the 2000 census.
Dakota County would be in the District 1 which would extend to the south
to include Fillmore and Houston counties.
District 2 takes in the western portion of Minnesota taking in Rock and
Nobles counties in the far southwestern corner and extending north to
Norman and Mahnomen counties. It also includes Cass, Crow Wing and
Morrison counties in central MN.
District 3, a south central district, has Scott, Carver, Rice, Dodge and
Mower counties on its eastern edge and extends as far west as Jackson
county. It includes Meeker and McLeod counties.
Districts, 4, 5 and 6 take in the metropolitan area. Hennepin, Ramsey and
Washington counties make up these three districts as well as the city of
West St Paul in Dakota County.
District 7 contains the north suburban counties such as Anoka, Sherburne,
Wright, Stearns and Benton counties.
District 8, labeled the North district, goes from Cook County on the east
to the western border of the state and goes from the border with Canada to
Isanti and Chisago County.
The population splits for the eight districts, under this plan, would come
out this way:
District 1--617,300; District 2--616,300; District 3--609,700; Districts
4/6--615,900 each; District 7--619.800; District 8--610.300.
G. The Outcome - The Iowa plan doesn’t
fit Minnesota but the review of the Iowa plan does provide a clear
direction, as suggested by Jim Hetland, “It’s the rules that count.”
Olson did not have enough data to attempt to draw a set of legislative
districts for Minnesota.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.