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Linn OKs districts

Paper: Gazette, The ( Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, IA)

Date: July 25, 2007

CEDAR RAPIDS - The grass-roots effort started three years ago to change the process of electing Linn County supervisors was again victorious Tuesday with the Plan 3 election method winning over two other possibilities.

The plan, which will divide the county into five districts of about 38,400 each, finished with 11,180 votes, or 56.32 percent of the 19,852 votes cast. Only people living in each district will vote on the supervisor for that district, a plan followed in 36 other Iowa counties, including Polk, Iowa's most populous.

"We've been working toward this goal since 2004. The people have spoken," said Plan 3's Dave Machacek of rural Alburnett. "All of us have been on the same page, wanting a better Linn County. It's time to pull together and move on. This is a great place to live, and I think things will be better if we pull together."

Running second was Plan 2, with 8,211 votes or 41.36 percent. Plan 2, backed by the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Hawkeye Labor Council, Linn County Democrats and the current supervisors, called for districts but elections at-large, meaning everyone countywide would vote on the candidates.

The results showed a rural-urban divide. Plan 2 carried all Cedar Rapids precincts except two and tied with Plan 3 in one (Precinct 29, Peace Christian Reform Church).

Plan 3 carried Marion precincts and all the rural townships, gaining 90-percent-plus margins in Central City, Prairieburg,


Linn/Election results show rural and urban split


Troy Mills and Coggon.

Plan 1, electing all supervisors at-large, which Linn County has been using since 1965, was soundly trounced - getting only 461 votes, or 2.32 percent. It had no organized support.

Voter turnout was about 14.4 percent.

The small group of bipartisan citizens who backed Plan 3 forced Tuesday's vote by gathering 12,033 names on petitions. They also successfully petitioned for a vote last November on the number of supervisors, increasing the Linn board from three to five members, effective November 2008.

Chamber President/CEO Lee Clancey said she did not see the defeat of Plan 2 as a swipe at its backers. She and Alan Bernard, the executive director of the Hawkeye Labor Council, said it had more to do with the Plan 3 campaign communicating well and having a big head start.

"I don't see this as a repudiation by any means," Clancey said. "It has everything to do with we didn't put forward the kind of effort required in the amount of time we had. It was sort of a diffused effort. There wasn't that strong commitment to run a carefully crafted and effective campaign.

"It was a very confusing campaign for many people. There were very few who understood what it was all About," she said. Plan 3 co-chairwoman Bernita Rozinek of rural Ely and supporter Pat Harstad of Toddville agreed one of Plan 3's strong points was the conversations it had with people while gathering signatures on petitions. That one-on-one, personal approach was a key, they agreed.

Bernard, from the labor council, said a low turnout also did not help Plan 2's chances.

"I don't think a lot of people put the importance on the election that they should have," he said. "I think this was a very important election. We'll give it some time and see how it works. We will see if it produces the results that people pushing for Plan 3 say it will."

Plan 3 co-chairman, Eric Rosenthal of Cedar Rapids, said, "Our hope is that we will have greater discussion at the table with wiser decisions that include the whole county."

The smaller Linn County towns, he said, are not asking for control of the county board. They just want to be included in the governing decision process.

The next step is for the supervisors to appoint a temporary redistricting commission to formulate a districts plan.

Linn County's three supervisors - Lu Barron, James Houser and Linda Langston, all Democrats - said they will discuss on Monday appointing that commission, with a decision expected on Wednesday.

The commission can be three, five or seven members, and one member can be a sitting supervisor. All three supervisors on Tuesday told The Gazette they favor a commission of five members, with no sitting supervisor as a member, though a former supervisor is a possibility.

If the commission is five members, the supervisors will appoint three members, with the other two appointed by the county's Republican Party chairman.

The shift to districts means all five supervisor seats would be open for election in November 2008. That costs Supervisor Linda Langston the last two years of her current four-year term.

Contact the writer: (319) 398-8255 or

What's next: How Linn County supervisor districts will be determined

Linn County will now be divided into five districts, of about 38,400 residents each, for purposes of electing county supervisors. Here is the process for creating and approving those districts:

- The three county supervisors plan to appoint a temporary county redistricting commission of three, five or seven members. The supervisors, all Democrats, appoint the majority. The remaining members are appointed by the county's Republican Party chairman.

- Towns with populations of less than 38,400 cannot be split, meaning Cedar Rapids is the only city that can be split. Parts of Cedar Rapids likely will be in four of the five districts.

- The commission has until Feb. 15, 2008, to create a district plan and hold a public hearing on it. The plan must be in place by March 3 so candidates interested in running will know the districts.

- After the commission adopts a plan, it goes to the county supervisors, who can adopt or reject it. 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.

- Supervisors may amend the second plan but must supply a written statement declaring the amendment necessary to bring the plan closer to conforming with Iowa law.

- The plan is then submitted to the Iowa secretary of state/commissioner of elections. If the plan does not meet Iowa legal standards, it would be rejected. The supervisors 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.



Chris Kelleher/The Gazette // Gazette graphic

Plan 3 committee member Dave Machacek (center) of Alburnett was all smiles when talking with co-chair Eric Rosenthal of Cedar Rapids and his wife, Ann, at the Linn County Auditor's Office last night after they saw Plan 3 had an insurmountable lead in the election to determine how county supervisors will be selected. Machacek started a petition drive that forced the election. // How Linn County voted

Copyright (c) 2007, Gazette Communications, Inc.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Gazette Communications, Inc.