Linn election map gets state's final OK

Gazette, The (Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, IA) - Thursday, January 5, 2012
Author: By Steve Gravelle, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS -- Linn County's prolonged redistricting process is over. 

"All materials have been received by the Iowa Secretary of State's Office and all requirements have been met. These plans are approved for use, and the boundaries become effective January 15," Mary Mosiman, elections deputy in the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, wrote in a letter this week to county supervisors. 

The new map will be posted on the county's elections website by Jan. 15, said Tim Box, county deputy elections commissioner. By mid-February, registered voters will receive new identification cards including their new supervisor districts and polling places. 

"Just in time for the local-option sales tax" referendum in March, Box said. 

The county's redistricting -- required every 10 years to bring political boundaries into compliance with population patterns from the most recent census -- was extended after Mosiman's boss, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, rejected the proposed new map submitted in September. The volunteer redistricting commission appointed by supervisors had unanimously approved a map putting parts of Cedar Rapids in four of the five new supervisor districts, but Schultz interpreted state law as requiring local jurisdictions to be divided into the smallest number of county districts possible -- three, in Cedar Rapids' case. 

Supervisors appealed Schultz's decision, arguing that their preferred plan made districts contiguous and more compact. 

The appeal was rejected, with Schultz warning that a map would be imposed on the county if it didn't act by Dec. 1, so supervisors reconvened the redistricting panel. 

To meet Schultz's objections, the commissioners drew a map putting Cedar Rapids in three new districts, one district covering Marion and adjoining rural townships, and most of rural Linn County in one large district encircling the metro area. The new map also avoids conflicts among the incumbent supervisors, placing them each in separate districts. 

Schultz's office conditionally accepted the plan in early December, but Mosiman's letter makes it official. 

The rejected plan would have had a rural majority in one Cedar Rapids district, giving rural residents a mathematical chance of electing two rural supervisors to the five-member board.