The Iowa House and Senate have approved the redistricting plan for Iowa’s congressional and legislative districts.

The plan was first considered in the House early this morning and 10 minutes later it passed on a 91-7 vote. The Senate took it up less than half an hour later, endorsing the new maps on a 48-1 vote.  Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, praised the plan.

“I would suggest that we have a redistricting process that the legislature should be proud of, but most importantly, Iowans should be proud of as well,” Cownie said.

Nearly every other state uses a different redistricting process that’s highly-charged with partisan intrigue, often tilted to favor the party that currently holds power in that state capitol.  Under Iowa’s process, staff in a non-partisan agency draft the maps in secret, with no regard to party or where incumbent politicians live. The congressional districts in the new plan, for example, vary when you consider the population in each by less than one percent.  That’s as close to ensuring the goal of “one-man, one-vote” as possible according to Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg.

“You know, we heard a lot about term limits and we heard a lot about change,” Kibbie said this morning in the Senate.  “Iowa’s reapportionment plans generally change the legislature by 50 percent because of this plan.  This plan treats Democrats and Republicans, I say, equally.” 

Iowa has been using the non-partisan system for drawing new congressional and legislative districts since 1981. Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, noted that while other states routinely have their redistricting plans challenged in court, Iowa’s hasn’t been challenged since the state began using this system after the 1980 Census. 

“It’s based on fairness, non-partisanship and no regard for political information, party affiliation or the current districts,” Lensing said this morning. “It is truly a system of honesty, fairness and integrity.”

Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton called it a “job well done.”

“We believe that Iowa has possibly the best redistricting process in the nation,” McKinley said this morning. “While not everybody may not be happy with the district they receive, we all recognize it is, indeed, a fair plan.” 

Only eight of Iowa’s 150 legislators voted against the plan, and all eight are Republicans. None of the opponents spoke out during House or Senate debate this morning.  The plan would force Republican Congressmen Tom Latham of Ames and Steve King of Kiron to run against one another in 2012 — if Latham doesn’t move into the new third congressional district to challenge Democratic Congressmen Leonard Boswell of Des Moines.  Democratic Congressmen Bruce Braley of Waterloo and Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon currently live in the new first congressional district, but Loebsack has said he plans to move into the new second district, where no incumbent currently lives.

Governor Branstad says he’s in “no big hurry” to sign the plan into law, but the governor says he’s heard no “compelling reason” yet to reject it. 

Listen to House debate here and listen to Senate debate here.

Senator Sandy Greiner, a Republican from Keota, was the lone “no” vote in the Senate this morning.  The follow House members voted “no” on the plan:  Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield); Mark Brandenburg (R-Council Bluffs); Royd Chambers (R-Sheldon); Mary Ann Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs); Jeff Kaufmann (R-Wilton); Renee Schulte (R-Cedar Rapids); and Annette Sweeney (R-Alden).