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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

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.

In the 2010 cycle, Iowa’s legislature approved the nonpartisn body’s first proposed set of congressional and state legislative plans (HF 682) on Apr. 18, 2011.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

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The Latest Updates

Sep 16, 2021
Iowa's nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency published draft plans for the state's new congressional and state legislative districts. The state supreme court has extended the constitutionally-mandated Sept. 15 deadline until Dec. 1. The Governor has called a special session for Oct. 5 to approve final maps.
Aug 24, 2021
Iowa's Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee will hold three virtual hearings from September 20th - September 22nd to receive public input on proposed legislative and congressional maps.
Aug 12, 2021
The Iowa Legislature is planning to release the first proposed Legislative and Congressional redistricting plans by September 16, 2021.
Apr 8, 2021
The Iowa Supreme Court announced that it will handle redistricting in the event that the legislature is unable to do so by the required deadline due to delays in receiving U.S. census data.

Institution

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 §§ 42.542.6].

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]

Timing

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]    The regular legislative session began on Jan. 11, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on Apr. 30, 2021.  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]

Public input

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 §§ 42.242.6]

Records of the public hearings and comments submitted at those hearings will be found here.

Criteria

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, 37Iowa Code § 42.4In 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)]

2010 cycle

Iowa’s legislature approved the LSA’s first proposed set of congressional and state legislative plans (HF 682) on Apr. 18, 2011, and they were signed by the Governor on Apr. 29, 2011.

It appears that neither the congressional nor the state legislative plan was challenged in court.

2000 cycle

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.