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February 17th, 2011


By Craig Robinson

The political scene in Iowa is never boring.  At the state level, legislators are debating issues like the definition of marriage, protection of the unborn child, spending reductions, personal income tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, casino tax increases, voter identification, education spending, pre-school funding, and a corporate property tax overhaul.

If that isn’t enough to grab your attention, we are in the beginning stages of the Republican presidential nominating process, which begins in Iowa.  Already candidates are in and out of the state on a regular basis.  Some of these candidates are well known, others are just beginning to introduce themselves to Iowans, and some have yet to make their first trip to the state.  The national spotlight on the Iowa caucuses has also prompted FOX News to announce two presidential debates to be held in Iowa in less than a year.

What is going on at the state capitol and in coffee shops across the state could keep all of us political junkies entertained for a year or two.  However there is another hot button issue that the political class is about to obsess over – redistricting.

Iowa will lose a representative in Congress beginning in 2013 as the state goes from having five congressional districts to four.  With all five current members of congress showing no signs that they plan to retire, the 2012 elections will likely see two members of congress squaring off against one another.  There is also a strong likelihood that one or more member of congress may move to avoid being redistricted with another member of congress, especially if it is someone of the same party.

After the redistricting of 2000, Congressman Jim Leach sold him home in Davenport and moved to Iowa City to avoid a primary challenge from Congressman Jim Nussle, a fellow Republican.  Nussle and Leach each faced difficult challengers in 2002, but both were successful in their re-election efforts.

The political battle will really be about the state legislative maps presented to the legislature since the Iowa House and Senate have the power to approve or reject the proposals that the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency presents for approval..

Iowa is one of only three states that have a non-partisan agency propose redistricting plans and present them to the legislature for approval.  Under this process, the Legislative Services Agency will draft a plan and the legislature can either approve or reject it.

If the plan is rejected, the Legislative Services Agency will submit a second proposal.  If that plan is rejected, then they will submit a third and final plan.  However, unlike the first two plans, the legislature can make amendments to the third proposal.  If none of the three redistricting plans are agreed upon or the plan is challenged in court and rendered invalid, the Iowa Supreme Court will have the authority to establishing a valid redistricting plan.

It will be about three weeks until the first plan is delivered to the legislature for consideration.  While we have no idea what the first proposal will be, we do know the parameters that are required when creating the congressional maps.

1.  Congressional districts are not allowed to divide counties.

2.  Congressional districts must be contiguous and compact.

3.  The population of each district can’t deviate by more than 1 percent from the ideal size. (761,589).

The Des Moines Register has a fantastic tool that allows you to create different redistricting plans.  The following are some options that I created.  Each meets the criteria listed above.  As you will see, there are a number of different scenarios that may occur.  We could have Latham and King in the same district, but we could also have Latham, King, and Boswell all in the same district.  Braley and Loebsack could be tossed in together, but so could Latham and Braley.

Here are some different scenarios I came up with.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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