State Senate rejects proposed legislative map

Size of districts, populations deviations cited as primary reasons

State Senator Jeff Edler (R-State Center)

The Republican-controlled Iowa Senate rejected a proposed map of new legislative districts by a 32-18 vote along party lines during a special session convened at the statehouse on Tuesday.

Because the Senate turned down the proposal, the House opted not to bring the matter up for a vote. The potential changes, which are implemented every 10 years and reflect shifts in population, would have had major ramifications in Marshall County for the Iowa House, Iowa Senate and U.S. House districts. Federally, they would have moved the county from District One (represented by U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson) to District Two (represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks), and at the state level, the makeup of local districts would have changed substantially.

The new map would have placed Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center), who currently serves all of Marshall County, inside of Senate District 24, which would include western and northeastern Marshall County (excluding Marshalltown), all of Grundy County, most of Hardin County outside of Iowa Falls and most of Story County outside of Ames. As a result, he could have been forced to face fellow incumbent Sen. Annette Sweeney (R-Buckeye), in a GOP primary.

Marshalltown and the southeast corner of the county would have become part of the new Senate District 34 along with all of Tama County, the northern half of Benton County and a small chunk of southwestern Black Hawk County. There is no current incumbent residing within that area.

Edler, who voted against the map, said that his concerns arose from the size of some of the districts and population deviations of more than 500 residents between them. He added, however, that the prospect of a competitive primary wasn’t something that worried him.

“We’re going to see if we can bring the compactness in a little bit. These congressional districts are extremely large, with one of them (Iowa’s 4th, currently represented by Randy Feenstra) having a nearly 1,000 mile perimeter. I think we can do a little better there,” he said. “It looks like we’re going to ask (the Legislative Services Agency) to bring those two concerns to a higher standard and see what we can get on a second map. We’re going to follow the process outlined in the state statute.”

On the House side, Marshalltown and the southeast corner of the county would have been part of the new District 67 with Rep. Sue Cahill (D-Marshalltown) remaining the incumbent, and the western and northeastern sections of the county would have moved to the sprawling 48th district, which would also include a sliver of southeastern Story County, all of Grundy County and most of Hardin County excluding Iowa Falls.

Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) who currently serves northwest, southwest and southeastern Marshall County in House District 72, would have moved to the new House District 68 and potentially served a district including all of Tama County, the northern half of Benton County and a small sliver of southwestern Black Hawk County.

Fisher said he was generally ambivalent about the proposed changes and didn’t see them as a threat to his political prospects.

“It changed my district, but not in a manner that I saw as a difficult thing,” he said.

He added that as long as the new districts met the established criteria, he would accept them.

“I’ll deal with whatever comes down the pike because it’s not perfect, but it never is. And you don’t know what the next (map) is going to look like,” Fisher said. “It could be better or worse. I just want to wait and see what happens.”

Cahill was not immediately available for comment. The LSA, a nonpartisan state agency, now has up to 35 days to craft a new map and present it to the state legislature for acceptance or rejection. If the second set is rejected, the LSA can draw a third set, but lawmakers are then allowed to submit amendments to the maps.