Iowa’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto, but with substantial input from a nonpartisan advisory body and a bipartisan advisory committee, both maintained by statute. The state constitution [Iowa Const. art. III, § 35] dictates that if the legislature fails to enact a state legislative plan by Sept. 15, the state supreme court shall draw the final maps. On Sept. 14, 2021 the state supreme court approved an extension to Dec. 1, 2021 for legislatively-drawn maps.
In the 2020 cycle, Iowa’s legislature approved the advisory commission’s second proposed set of congressional and state legislative plans (SF 621), which was signed into law by the Gov. Reynolds on Nov. 4, 2021.
Key Info for 2000 Cycle
Primary governing law
Key Info for 2010 Cycle
Primary governing law
Iowa’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto, but with substantial input from a nonpartisan advisory body and a bipartisan advisory committee, both maintained by statute.
The nonpartisan advisory body is the Legislative Services Agency (LSA), a body of civil servants committed to nonpartisanship and otherwise charged with tasks like legal and fiscal analysis of state legislation and state government oversight. The LSA prepares draft redistricting plans under criteria set almost entirely by statute.
Where the statutory criteria leave discretionary latitude, the LSA looks for guidance to a five-person independent commission; each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) select one commissioner, and those four select a fifth. None of the commissioners may hold partisan public office or an office in a political party, and none may be a relative or employee of a federal or state legislator (or the legislature as a whole). The members of this independent commission will be listed here. [Iowa Code §§ 42.5–42.6].
The LSA works with this independent commission to draw a bill containing both congressional and state legislative plans. When this first set of plans is presented, the legislature may accept or reject it without modification; if it is rejected, the LSA will prepare another set using the legislature’s feedback. That set of plans may also be accepted or rejected without modification; if it is rejected, the LSA will prepare a third and final set of plans, which may be modified at the legislature’s discretion. [Iowa Code § 42.3]
Although the Iowa legislature has the ability to reject three LSA plans and then entirely substitute its own, it has not chosen to do so since the procedure’s inception in 1980. Furthermore, the entire procedure above is statutory and subject to repeal or revision by the legislature at any time.
The Iowa Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to hear legal challenges in state court to redistricting plans. [Iowa Const. art. III, § 36]
By statute, the LSA must deliver its first set of congressional and state legislative plans to the legislature by Apr. 1, 2021; if the plans are rejected, the LSA must deliver its second set of plans within 35 days of that rejection. If the second set of plans is rejected, the LSA must deliver its third and final set of plans within 35 days of that rejection. [Iowa Code § 42.3]
The Iowa constitution provides that the legislature must enact state legislative plans by Sept. 1, 2021, and gives the Iowa Supreme Court authority to take over if the legislature has not done so by Sept. 15, 2021. No similar provision exists for congressional districts. [Iowa Const. art. III, § 35] On Sept. 14, 2021 the state supreme court approved an extension to Dec. 1, 2021 for legislatively-drawn maps. The regular legislative session began on Jan. 11, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on Apr. 30, 2021. Governor Kim Reynolds called a special session for Oct. 5, 2021 to approve new congressional and state legislative maps. Candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Mar. 18, 2022. [Iowa Code § 43.11(2)]
Iowa law ties the drawing of state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade. There is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Iowa Const. art. III, § 35]
After the LSA delivers its first set of plans to the legislature, it must make public a copy of the plan and associated data. The advisory independent commission must then conduct at least three public hearings in different regions of the state, and summarize feedback from the hearings for the legislature. [Iowa Code §§ 42.2, 42.6]
Records of the public hearings and comments submitted at those hearings will be found here.
Like all states, Iowa must comply with constitutional equal population requirements. In addition, Iowa statutes require congressional districts to be populated as nearly equal as practicable and not more than 1% deviation; state legislative districts must be populated as nearly equal as practicable except where necessary to comply with other requirements, and in no event may the overall average deviation exceed 1%, and the total deviation may not exceed 5%. [Iowa Code § 42.4(1)]
Iowa must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race. Iowa law further provides that districts may not be drawn for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group; that language has not yet been construed by a court. [Iowa Code § 42.4(5)]
Iowa law also requires that districts be convenient and contiguous, preserve the integrity of political subdivisions like counties and cities, and to the extent consistent with other requirements, reasonably compact — defined in terms of regular polygons, comparison of length and width, and overall boundary perimeter. [Iowa Const. art. III, §§ 34, 37; Iowa Code § 42.4; In re Legislative Districting of General Assembly, 193 N.W.2d 784 (Iowa 1972)] Where possible, and where not in conflict with the criteria above, state House districts must be nested within state Senate districts, and both should be nested where possible within congressional districts. [Iowa Code § 42.4(6)]
In drawing maps, neither the commission nor the legislature may consider incumbent residences, political data, or demographic information other than where required by federal law. Districts may not be drawn to favor a political party, incumbent, or other person or group. [Iowa Code § 42.4(5)]
Iowa’s legislature rejected the LSA’s first proposed set of plans, but enacted the second, on June 22, 2001.
It appears that neither the congressional nor the state legislative plan was challenged in court.