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Iowa Legislature approves second redistricting map

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FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2011 photo, Ed Cook, legal counsel for the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, holds a map of Iowa that will be used to help in drawing new congressional district lines, in Des Moines, Iowa. The once-a-decade process of redistricting is a bare-knuckles display of politics as incumbents seek to protect their districts and parties scramble for any advantage - except in Iowa where three nonpartisan staffers redraw the lines, focused solely on making districts compact and equal in population. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Legislature on Thursday passed a second redistricting plan after the first one was rejected, ensuring the state continues decades of nonpartisan drawing of congressional and legislative districts.

The plan passed the Senate 48-1, with one senator absent, and the House 93-2.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate rejected on a party-line vote the first plan drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency during a one-day session on Oct. 5. Republicans said some legislative districts were irregularly shaped and that population deviations should be improved in a second map.

Republican state Sen. Roby Smith said the second set of maps weren’t perfect but were improved by creating more compact and balanced population deviation among congressional and legislative districts.

“Instead of undermining the ‘gold standard’ process by spreading false narratives of gerrymandering like some in this chamber have done, Iowa Senate Republicans upheld our role and responsibility in this once in a decade requirement to ensure congressional and legislative districts meet constitutional and statutory standards,” Smith said.

Democrats had criticized Republicans after the first set of maps failed to pass, expressing concern that the GOP leadership might attempt to amend a third set of maps as allowed by law to favor their party.

“Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting tradition has been upheld thanks to the overwhelming support of Iowans. Iowans across the state stood up in defense of our democracy, against partisan gerrymandering, and made our voices heard in the legislative process. I am proud of everybody who stood up on this important issue,” said Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said the approval of the second set of maps shows the process worked as the law intended.

“I believe these new districts will fairly and accurately represent the citizens of Iowa for the next decade.” she said. She did not immediately indicate when she might sign the measure.

The LSA draws maps following detailed guidelines to ensure population balance among Iowa’s congressional districts and to prevent political influence. The Legislature can only accept or reject the first and second set of maps, but in the third round, legislators can make changes.

In the second plan, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks would be pushed into the same congressional district. It also would keep the Democratic counties of Johnson and Linn in separate districts, unlike the previous plan rejected by Republicans.

In the maps approved Thursday, 20 senators would be paired in the same district, compared with 24 in the first plan. In the House, 38 incumbents were drawn into the same districts, the same as in the first plan.

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