GUEST COLUMN: Redistricting and the Iowa Gold Standard | Guest columnists


Mention “slicing” and many Iowans would need to google it. Others may recall a high school civics class on enumeration, redistribution and redistribution. Anyway, what is it and why should you pay attention to it?

The United States Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years so that members of the United States House of Representatives can be distributed among states for subsequent elections. The first census, completed in 1790, distributed or allocated 105 seats to a national population of 3,929,214 for 37,421 citizens per seat.

Two hundred and thirty years later, after 22 censuses (no redistribution in 1920), a 2020 census of 331,108,434 yielded approximately 761,168 people for each of the 435 members of Congress. However, since not all states have a population greater than 761,168 and yet must be allocated a seat in Congress, rounding must be done. Of course, states like Wyoming, with 576,851 citizens, only have one representative.

The 2020 census counted 3,192,406 Iowans and distributed 798,101 people by seat in Congress. This number is a significant change from the 2010 census which allocated the four seats of Congress to a population of 3,046,355, or 761,588 people per seat. This change in distribution therefore required a redistribution to ensure that voters in Iowa had an equal vote.

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The redistribution was necessary because 68 of Iowa’s 99 counties lost population between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. If the district maps had remained the same, rural areas would have fewer citizens per seat in Congress while urban areas would have more, thus diminishing their influence in Congress. As this practice is not permitted, the Legislative Services Agency has redrawn the district maps to reflect these changes.

As you can imagine, creating district maps can be controversial. State and federal courts have had to intervene on several occasions. The Supreme Court issued the famous “one man, one vote” decision in 1962 calling for equal representation. Iowa’s first attempt to comply with the ruling after the 1970 census resulted in the Iowa Supreme Court ruling that the legislature had failed to obey the 1968 redistribution amendment to the Constitution of Iowa. The court then imposed its redistribution plan for the 1972 elections.

When 1980 arrived, the Iowa legislature created what has been called the national “gold standard” for state redistribution. Governor Robert D. Ray asked a bipartisan group of four lawmakers to develop objective criteria for the redistribution and assigned the task to the bipartisan LSA. The agency applied the requirements to the census data and generated a map showing the districts. The Legislative Assembly would then have the option of approving or disapproving. If the legislators rejected the first and second plans, the Legislature could modify the third plan. If this plan is rejected, the legislature can create and enforce its plan without the contribution of the LSA. With the approval of the most recent LSA plan last fall, Iowa’s redistribution gold standard has been a success for 40 years.

The Iowa League of Voters began studying redistribution in the 1950s and advocated for amending the redistribution of the Iowa Constitution in 1968. Then the league joined with other organizations. to challenge the map approved by the Legislature in 1971 and was a strong proponent of delegating the redistribution criteria to the non-partisan LSA in 1981. LWVIA President Jean Lloyd Jones was elected to the Legislature and was elected to the Legislative Assembly. contributed to the development of these guidelines.

The Iowans should be proud of their redistribution protocol. While other states often use gerrymandering to protect lawmakers, producing maps with oddly drawn districts, the Iowa gold standard protects the rights of voters to be fairly represented in the legislature. Free and fair elections take place when voters choose their candidates, not when lawmakers divide constituencies to favor themselves, trying to choose their voters.

The Black Hawk and Bremer County League of Voters congratulates the Iowa Legislature on continuing our tradition of excellence! The Iowans will be better represented because of this.

For a detailed description of the Iowa Gold Standard, as well as the criteria for drawing district legislative boundaries, visit

Former LWVIA President Jean Lloyd-Jones on LWVIA’s Role in Developing Non-partisan Redistribution Criteria:

Cherie Dargan is president of the Black Hawk-Bremer County Voters’ League.

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