By Ashley Steeb and Megan Powell
An emissary from Iowa’s renowned non-partisan approach to legislative redistricting spoke to an Indiana General Assembly study committee Thursday.
Ed Cook, the senior legal counsel for Iowa Legislative Services Agency, addressed the Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting at the Statehouse. Cook said Iowa’s current redistricting methods have not changed much from the method introduced in the 1980s.
“That is the legislation that established this process,” said Cook. “Basically, it establishes standards, it establishes the process.”
Iowa’s districts must be compact in form, consistent with population, and can only be square, rectangular or hexagonal shaped. They also must pass length-width and perimeter-size tests.
“We try not to have districts that are going to be long, extremely narrow or stretch long distances,” said Cook. “We try to avoid having districts that are very narrow.”
The Iowa legislature draws the district lines, but they receive significant nonpartisan guidance and advice from the Legislative Services Agency and Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission.
Iowa’s redistricting method, Cook said, has a specific philosophy.
“A system designed to enact a redistricting plan in an efficient and timely manner without political gridlock and to prevent political gerrymandering,” said Cook during a PowerPoint presentation. “A blind system, from a partisan perspective, will most often result in an acceptable redistricting plan.”
Cook’s appearance followed a meeting of the Indiana Coalition of Independent Redistricting earlier in the day.
At that meeting, Michael Li of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School argued for political balance in drawing legislative maps.
“There is something amiss in our democracy and redistricting has something to do with it,” said Li.
The redistricting study committee may hold two more meetings, and the next meeting will be scheduled for a date in September or October. The committee must submit findings by Dec. 1.