Detailed census data is in, and the race is on to re-draw the lines for Iowa’s legislative and congressional districts. Lawmakers’ political futures may be determined by where those lines are drawn. Every 10 years, there’s a re-write of the dividing lines that determine who represents you in the Iowa Legislature and in Congress. It’s done because population shifts, and new census data is used. The process vexes both veteran and rookie lawmakers. Representative Don Shoultz, a democrat from Waterloo, has served in the legislature for 20 years and wonders what he’ll face in ’02.Representative Willard Jenkins, a republican from Waterloo, could face Shoultz in 2002. Jenkins will seek re-election, even if he faces another incumbent, but he knows other legislators will make different choices.Ten years ago, Brent Siegrist of Council Bluffs was a relative newcomer to the Iowa House when, because of re-districting, he was thrown in a race against a democrat who was an 18-year veteran of the House. Siegrist won that race 10 years ago, and now he’s Speaker of the House. Again, his political future hangs on the way district lines are re-drawn, as he may run for Congress if Council Bluffs doesn’t get thrown in Congressman Tom Latham’s district.Iowa’s plan for re-drawing legislative and congressional districts is a model for other states.In many states, the once-every-decade process of re-districting throws the political culture in chaos as legislators and party officials get to write the plans, and try to skew ’em in their party’s favor. In Iowa, a non-partisan research group does the work in secret, then releases a plan in April or May. The Iowa House and Senate can’t change that plan, and must either approve it or vote it down. If that first plan is voted down, the non-partisan Legislative Service Bureau releases a second plan. If that’s voted down, a third plan is released, and lawmakers can start tinkering with that one. House Speaker Brent Siegrist, a republican from Council Bluffs, hopes it doesn’t come to that. In 1991, the Iowa Legislature endorsed the first plan it saw — one in which then-democrat Congressman Dave Nagle was thrown in a district with republican Congressman Jim Nussle. Nussle won that new district in 1992.
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