For the second time this month, the Iowa Legislature is convening for a special session to consider a set of proposed new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts.
Senate Republicans voted to reject the first redistricting proposal when lawmakers met Oct. 5. That sent the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency back to the drawing board for a second attempt.
The agency released the second set of maps last week. The maps' nonpartisan authors cannot take political factors such as voter registration or incumbents' addresses into account when drawing the maps, but the second proposal appears more favorable to Republicans — who hold majorities in the Iowa House and Senate — than the first.
One analyst, Dave Wasserman with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, called it "a dream Republican map."
Some Republican lawmakers also want to use the special session to pass legislation pushing back against proposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements from the federal government.
House and Senate Republicans each plan to meet privately Thursday morning to discuss how they plan to vote. Privately, Republicans have raised fewer alarms about the current proposed set of maps, compared to the first plan.
"Just as we did with map 1, we will do our due diligence to review this set of maps to ensure it's fair for the people of Iowa," House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a statement the day the second proposal was released.
Democrats in each chamber have already met and are expected to largely, if not unanimously, support the maps.
"As with the first map, I’m going to put politics aside and vote for this fair, nonpartisan map," said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights. "Republican lawmakers need to stay focused on redistricting and approve this nonpartisan map."
What would the new political maps do if approved?
At the congressional level, approving the new redistricting maps could set up a 2022 battle between Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. That's because the proposed 3rd District would include Miller-Meeks' home in Wapello County in addition to Axne's Polk County home.
Among the other geographic changes in the second map: Linn and Johnson counties would be split once again between Iowa's 1st and 2nd Districts, as they are in Iowa's current congressional map. The previous proposal would have grouped the two Democratic strongholds together in Iowa's 1st District.
Voter registration in each of the four congressional districts would remain largely the same as under the current set of maps, enacted in 2011.
Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, would have won each of the state's districts in 2020 under the proposed lines with 50.4% of the vote in the 1st District, 51.1% in the 2nd, 49.1% in the 3rd and 62.1% in the 4th. Those are similar margins to what he received in Iowa's current set of maps. Under the first proposed set of maps released this year, Democratic President Joe Biden would have won two of the four districts.