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October 7th, 2011

Polk Dems’ Gerrymandered Map Rejected, Investigation Continues

Secretary of State Matt Schultz rejected a plan devised by Polk County Democrats that places the only two Republicans on the Board of Supervisors into the same district. Meanwhile, an investigation looking into wrongdoing by the Democrats on the county redistricting board continues.

The board voted along 3-2 party lines to adopt a map devised by chairman Michael Gartner, a noted liberal. Gartner’s map places Republicans E.J. Giovannetti of Johnston and Robert Brownell of Clive into the same district. The supervisors voted, also along 3-2 party lines, to adopt the map.

The map appears to be an attempt by the Democrats to protect their 60-year stranglehold on Polk County. It prompted attorney Matt Whitaker to file a complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Disclosure Board. The board voted last month to extend its investigation. Gartner, Ken Agey, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald and county election director John Chiodo were all scheduled to give testimony in depositions on Thursday. It was the second time Agey, Gartner and Fitzgerald were deposed.

The Democrats’ efforts were all for naught due to the Secretary of State rejecting their plan. TheIowaRepublican obtained a copy of the letter Schultz’s office sent to the Polk County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday. It reads, in part:

“During my review of the plan, I found an issue with the supervisor district map which requires it to be rejected. There are also problems with the precinct ordinance that need to be corrected and a variety of small issues with the other documentation that must be addressed…”

“Secretary Schultz is aware that the process used to adopt this supervisor district plan is currently under investigation by the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. He also has concerns about whether improper political considerations impacted the decision to adopt this plan, however, due to the problem with the supervisor district map as presented, he has decided to proceed with rejecting the map for technical legal compliance at this time.”

Gartner’s map places parts of the city of Des Moines into all five supervisors’ districts. The Secretary of State’s office contends that Iowa Code states Des Moines can only be placed into three of the five districts.

“We thank Matt Schultz for making Polk County follow the law,” said Polk County GOP co-chairman Dave Funk. “They tried to gerrymander their way around to protect themselves. It’s obvious that Secretary of State Schultz wants Polk County to follow the law and that’s what we’re asking them to do.”

Funk lost to incumbent Tom Hockensmith in a Board of Supervisors race last year. A map submitted by Funk places Republican E.J. Giovannetti and Democrat Angela Connolly into the same district.

County supervisor Robert Brownell has an easy solution. He believes Polk County should adopt the same non-partisan process used by the State of Iowa. “Our position all along has been to take the human element out of this,” Brownell told TheIowaRepublican.  “The Legislative Services Agency has a tool to do this. It’s non-partisan. I really think that would be the better way to do it.  That’s been the Republican stance all along.”

Every 10 years, following new census statistics, redistricting is required. Brownell says the Polk County process has a long history of problems like this year’s that include lawsuits and accusations of gerrymandering.

“If you look back through history, we’ve had to go through this 75% of the time,” Brownell said. “That’s telling me that the product is broken. We’ve got a tool that we can use and probably forego a lot of this kind of handwringing and fingerpointing.”

The deadline for submitting a new redistricting plan is October 15th. The state will handle adopting a new map if Polk County fails to submit one or meet the legal requirements.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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