Statewide legislative districts

This map shows the proposed legislative districts across Iowa as drawn by the Legislative Services Agency, a non-partisan commission. The Iowa Senate struck down this version by a 32-18 vote on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Sandy Salmon had a quandary to face when she went to Des Moines Tuesday for a special session of the Iowa Legislature.

The Janesville Republican and representative of current House District 63 — which includes all of Bremer County and the northern portion of Black Hawk County outside of Waterloo and Cedar Falls — was getting ready to vote on the first draft of a redistricting map that would put her into a new district.

But it wasn’t in the new House District 54, that would have included Bremer County and the Oran and Oelwein areas of Fayette County. It was in a new version of House District 60, which would nearly encircle the cities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls entirely in Black Hawk County.

“It roped me out of Bremer County, that was a very difficult prospect,” Salmon told Waverly Newspapers Tuesday afternoon by phone. “I’d be losing about 80% of the people I already know.

“But there’s always a dawning prospect of me to meet more people. It was just difficult for me — either I have to work really, really hard to start over and meet more new people, or else make a household-goods move into a district I’m familiar with.”

Salmon and her House colleagues were awaiting the initial up-or-down votes from the Iowa Senate, which had first opportunity to review the maps Tuesday morning. After a committee advanced the cartography to the full chamber unanimously without a recommendation, the senators rejected the maps on a 32-18 party-line vote and had the Iowa Legislative Services Agency (LSA) start the process to make a second draft.

She said she was “relieved” that she didn’t need to pack her belongings or try to flip a mostly Democratic district, represented right now by Cedar Falls’ Dave Williams. But, she also wasn’t surprised that the Senate didn’t pass the measure.

“The rumors were kind of spreading over the last week that the Senate may not accept it,” Salmon said. “It threw a lot of senators together, some of their districts were kind of sprawled out, and I just think there’s a lot of people pretty unhappy with it. In the House, there were people thrown together, too, more than usual.

“People weren’t so terribly disappointed (over the vote). (They) just figured to take a chance on the second map. We’ll see what happens.”

According to analyses by multiple media organizations across the state, 64 incumbents — including Salmon, House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, and Senate District 32’s Craig Johnson, R-Independence — would have been thrown together in new districts.

In Johnson’s case, he would have been in the proposed Senate District 48, which included all of Buchanan and Delaware counties, eastern Black Hawk County and the northwest half of Dubuque County. Plus, he would have had to face two of his Republican colleagues: Carrie Koelker, of Dyersville, and Dan Zumbach, of Ryan.

Meanwhile, Grassley would have been placed in proposed House District 53, which included Butler and Franklin counties and the Iowa Falls area and would have had to face a primary against Rep. Shannon Latham, R-Sheffield. Sen. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, would have been in Senate District 24 but would have avoided running against a current colleague in Grundy, Marshall, Hardin and Story counties with the exception of the Iowa Falls, Marshalltown and Ames areas.

Under the rejected map, Bremer County would have had to vote for new representation in both chambers unless Salmon were to move into Bremer County. She currently lives a quarter mile south of the county line.

In a statement released soon after the rejection, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said Republicans didn’t have a legitimate reason to vote the maps down.

“Iowans have made it very clear that they don’t want politicians in Des Moines stacking the deck in their own favor,” Wilburn said. “Iowa Republicans are one step closer to rejecting the principles of our nonpartisan process to manipulate our maps. It’s now more important than ever that the second map – which will also be drawn by nonpartisan experts – be approved without amendment to continue Iowa’s gold standard for fair representation.”

But his GOP counterpart, Jeff Kauffman, responded that Democrats don’t have anything to worry about.

“As I have said since the beginning of this process, Iowans can have confidence that Iowa’s redistricting process will be transparent and fair for every Iowan,” Kauffman said in a statement. “Today’s actions by the Senate are a part of the process, as outlined by our state constitution, and is not out of the ordinary. Anyone claiming otherwise is spreading disinformation and trying to inject partisan politics into our process that has been hailed as the gold standard by both political parties.

“The process will continue forward, in a nonpartisan manner and in accordance with the law.”

The LSA used data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau from its decennial population counts — which stretched into late 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It showed that Iowa’s population centers shifted from the rural areas to the urban centers, and the maps reflected that.

Salmon said some of her colleagues were taken aback when they saw the result.

“It’s going to be more like that because of those population shifts,” she said. “I don’t we’ll get a map that doesn’t throw people together. It’s going to happen.”

Due to the delay, the LSA didn’t receive the data until April and released the first draft of the maps on Sept. 16. The Legislature held three virtual public hearings on the maps, which most who attended advised lawmakers to enact the first version.

However, with the rejection, the LSA has up to 35 days to draw version 2.0, which would stretch the process to Nov. 9.

The Iowa Supreme Court has set a Dec. 1 deadline to adopt the new legislative and congressional districts.

However, Salmon believes the LSA will be getting the second draft ready faster than required.

“We’re told it could be late October, early November for coming back in again for a special session,” Salmon said. “Hopefully, it’s a quicker time frame, so it gives us a little more flexibility.”

She wasn’t sure what would happen to proposed boundaries.

“They have certain parameters that they’ve got to meet,” Salmon said. “It would be nice to have a district where I knew most of the people already. You can’t always expect that.

“The population shifts, and you’ve got to go with it.”