Linn relies on locals, not state, for district blueprints

The Gazette
September 11, 2007


CEDAR RAPIDS - Under the gun to divide Linn County into five supervisor districts by the end of October, the Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission on Monday agreed to study five maps from two sources.

The commission will look at four maps Auditor Joel Miller created before the July 25 election, in which voters opted to elect supervisors by district.

Miller generated the maps by using the county's GIS mapping system, mainly as examples of what districts could look like. But since the commission learned the state Legislative Services Agency could not draw the map, Miller's examples have been put to practical use.

The fifth map is a one hand-drawn by commission member Norm Sterzenbach.

The maps must have five districts of approximately the same size and cannot split precincts. The five-member commission will discuss the maps on Sept. 20. At that meeting, commissioners could recommend one of the maps for

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adoption or create one of its own during the meeting.

The redistricting commission began work in late August under the impression it had until Feb. 15 to complete its tasks.

However, last week the offices of the secretary of state and attorney general said the due date was Sept. 15, a deadline that was impossible to meet. Assistant County Attorney Gary Jarvis disagreed, contending the Feb. 15, 2008, date is correct.

State officials also are concerned about getting the boundaries drawn and approved before Iowa's precinct caucuses consume the state, probably in January.

The commission last week also learned that the state's Legislative Services Agency cannot produce prospective maps, as had been hoped. The agency, under current state policy, would produce a map only if the local commission cannot agree on five districts.

The outcome of that flurry of activity was the state and county agreeing to disagree about the date the district map is due - with the state willing to let the county have until the end of October as long as progress is being made.

The same situation faces Washington County, where, as in Linn County, voters increased the size of the county board to five members and then elected to have supervisors elected by district.

In Linn County, the four maps created by the auditor have parts of Cedar Rapids in four of the five districts. Each district must have a population of 38,340 people, plus or minus 1 percent, based on the 2000 census. Iowa law prohibits dividing towns with populations less than the population of a district, meaning only Cedar Rapids can be divided along precinct lines. Marion, the county's second-largest city at 26,294 (2000 census), must remain intact in one district.

Sterzenbach's map has portions of Cedar Rapids in all five districts, but one of his proposed districts has only one Cedar Rapids precinct. One of Sterzenbach's proposals is also slightly over the 1 percent allowed differential (1.06 percent).

Miller will have his GIS mapping staff at the next commission meeting to run the mapping software in case the commission wishes to change some scenarios.

If the commission adopts a plan, the map goes to the county supervisors, who must hold a public hearing. The supervisors then adopt or reject the plan. A rejection must carry written lawful reasons the plan was rejected.

If the plan is rejected, the plan returns to the commission for amending before it goes back to the supervisors.

The supervisors may amend the second plan but, again, must supply a written reason why it brings the plan closer to conforming with Iowa law.

The plan is then submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State/Commissioner of Elections Office. If the plan does not meet Iowa legal standards, it would be rejected. The supervisors would then direct the commission to prepare and adopt an acceptable plan.

No public hearing is required on subsequent attempts to adopt an acceptable plan.

All five supervisor seats will be open for election in November 2008, which creates some urgency, too, for getting the boundaries drawn. - Contact the writer: (319) 398-8255 or dick.hogan@gazettecommunications.com

What's next

--The Linn County redistricting panel will look at map options Sept. 20. See the maps

--To see the supervisor district maps under consideration by the Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission, go to www.GazetteOnline.com

--The maps, including one drawn by Norm Sterzenbach, also will appear in Sunday's Gazette.


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