As noted in previous posts, the new precincts required by state redistricting take legal effect today, January 17, 2012.  Redistricting takes place every ten years following the U.S. Census.  Most rural precincts in Iowa remain the same from one redistricting to the next.  Usually bigger cities with wards have to redraw wards and the precincts within those wards.  This year, due to population growth and redistribution, and the effects of state redistricting, four Scott County cities (Bettendorf, Davenport, Eldridge and LeClaire) had to redraw precinct or ward lines.  In addition, Scott County had to redraw precinct lines due to growth in Park View and Buffalo Township, as well as state redistricting which isolated some small towns from their surrounding townships.

Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires reapportionment of Congress every ten years based on the population of the states.  Iowa will lose one representative  in congress, dropping from five down to four members, because Iowa has not gained population at the same rate as some other states.

Besides reapportionment of the U.S. Congress, the Iowa General Assembly has been reapportioned as well.  Iowa Constitution Article III, Sections 35 and 36, which deal with apportionment of the General Assembly, were amended in 1968 to bring Iowa in line with the one person, one vote rule set forth by the U.S. Supreme court in a line cases from the early 1960s. 

In Reynolds v. Sims (1964) the Court found a disparity of 14 to 1 in the number of residents in the most populous representative district versus the least populous one in the State of Alabama.  This disparity created what the court found to be an unconstitutional difference in voting power.  Other states had even more egregious differences.  In Connecticut the ratio was 424 to 1; New Hampshire 1,081 to 1; Utah 196 to 1; Vermont 1,000 to 1; California 428 to 1; and the list went on. 

Iowa has a recent history of noncontroversial reapportionments, and our law on reapportionment is cited as the best in the nation.  Iowa Code Chapter 42 sets forth the requirements for reapportionment.  In essence the nonpartisan legislative services agency uses the criteria of state law to objectively draw congressional and legislative lines.  The criteria are based on contiguous area and reduction of population variance (no more than one percent variance between congressional districts and no more than five percent variance between state house districts and state senate districts, respectively). 

In drafting the plan the agency cannot use any demographic information (except for population head counts), previous election results, political affiliation of registered voters, or the addresses of incumbent elected officials.  Each house of the General Assembly votes on the plan as prepared by the legislative services agency without amendment.  If the plan fails to pass one house then the agency drafts another plan using the same criteria, each house can vote on that plan without amendment, and if it fails then a third plan is prepared.  This plan can be amended.

Article III, Section 36 of the Iowa Constitution gives the right of any voter to appeal a redistricting plan to the Iowa Supreme Court.  In 1968 when the law first went into effect some voters appealed to the Supreme Court regarding the plan adopted that year.  The Court found the plan adopted that year did not meet legal requirements and the Supreme Court drafted its own plan.  Since then no plan has been appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. 

Maps of the new precincts can be found on the Auditor’s page of the Scott County website under the Voting category.