Final public hearing held for Iowa’s redistricting plan

DES MOINES — Advocates for rural Iowans called for rejection of Plan 1 for redistricting, while most of the speakers at a public hearing last night praised the proposed boundaries for legislative and congressional districts.

Steve Woodhouse, who did not give his address, was among those who argued the proposal isn’t fair to rural Iowans. “My concerns are just basically because there seems to be a huge divide between the wants and needs of rural Iowa versus that of urban,” Woodhouse said, “and I don’t think it’s going to be balanced enough with this map.”

Thomas O’Donnell, who did not give his address, said the map reflects Iowa’s population as it is now, with metro areas getting more representation. “The people who may oppose this map, particularly Republicans who are thrown into the same districts in the General Assembly, have to face the reality that population in rural areas is declining,” he said.

The redistricting plan continues to use a major street in Sioux City as a dividing line for legislative districts, so the largest Morningside University residence hall is in different Iowa House and Senate districts compared to the rest of Morningside’s campus. Valerie Hennings, a Morningside social sciences professor, said that makes voting decisions more confusing for students.

“We have had that line down Peters Avenue for the past decade and it has presented a challenge to our undergraduate population when it comes to their first time voting,” she said.

Most of those who spoke tonight praised the redistricting plan. “I know that you’re not hearing from hoards of people or people that are super mad, but supporting a fair process doesn’t tend to get people to speak out and chant loudly,” said Kim Hagemann, who lives in an unincorporated area of Polk County. “I’m here to say: ‘Pass the map! Pass the map! Pass the map!’”

Ellen Johnson, who did not give her address, recited a poem, asking legislators to approve the “first draft” of redistricting.

“In our state there’s no room for partisan pandering. Each district’s border is just a bit meandering, but they’re pretty compact and I hope you’ll quickly act so in Iowa we can avoid gerrymandering,” she said.

The governor has set October 5 as the date for a special legislative session, for lawmakers to approve or reject the first redistricting plan.

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