Redistricting & Reprecincting FAQ

Redistricting & Reprecincting FAQ


What is redistricting and reprecincting?

Redistricting is the redrawing of congressional, legislative, county supervisor, city ward, and school director district boundaries.

Reprecincting is the redrawing of precinct boundaries. Both processes occur after every federal decennial census.

[2 U.S.C. §2a(a); Iowa Constitution, Article III, Sec. 34, §42.3, 49.7]

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When will legislative and congressional boundaries become effective?

The deadline for the General Assembly to pass the plan establishing new congressional and legislative district boundaries is September 1, 2011.

[Iowa Constitution, Article III, Sec. 35]

New boundaries become effective for the General Election in 2012 for terms beginning in January 2013.

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Will my polling place change?

Maybe. The location of a polling place is decided by the county auditor. Polling places must be as centrally located within precinct boundaries as possible. If the precinct boundaries change after reprecincting, the county auditor may decide to move the polling place to best serve the voters in the precinct.

[§49.21(2)(a)]

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What is a holdover senate district?

A holdover senate district is a district that is not regularly scheduled to be on the ballot at the 2012 general election. These will be the new, odd-numbered senate seats. These seats will all be on the ballot in 2014 for a 4 year term and some of them will be on the ballot for a 2 year term in 2012, depending on the residences of current senators.

  • As of 2/1/2012 only one incumbent senator resides in a new, odd-numbered senate district.

  • If only one incumbent senator lives in one of the new, odd-numbered senate districts, that senator will continue to represent the new district as long as the senator's current address is in the new, odd-numbered district and is either:

    1. The same as the senator's residence on 11/2/2010

    2. OR

    3. In a new senate district that is contiguous to the senate district where the senator resided on 11/2/2010.

    [§42.4(8)(b)(1)]

  • As of 2/1/2012 more than one incumbent senator lives in a new, odd-numbered senate district.

  • If more than one incumbent senator lives in a new, odd-numbered senate district, that seat will go on the ballot for a 2 year term unless resignations are received leaving only one incumbent senator in the district.

    [§42.4(8)(b)(2)]

  • As of 2/1/2012 no incumbent senator resides in a new, odd-numbered senate district.

  • The seat will go on the ballot for a 2 year term in 2012.

For a map illustration of these situations, see Holdover Senate District Example.

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What happens if a vacancy occurs in a U.S. Representative, state senator or state house seat before the new districts become effective?

A special election will be held pursuant to Iowa Code §69.14. The vacancy will be filled from the same district which elected the representative or senator whose seat is vacant, not from the new district.

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Why did Iowa lose a congressional district?

Under federal law, each state is apportioned seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the results of the federal decennial census using a "method of equal proportions." Even though Iowa's population grew over the past ten years, the population growth in other states was greater.

[2 U.S.C. §2a(a)]

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When can counties, cities, and schools file their plans with the SOS?

Counties and cities cannot file their reprecincting and/or redistricting plans with the Secretary of State until the new Congressional and legislative boundary plans have been signed by governor. After this date, counties and cities may begin filing.

City plans must be filed by September 1, 2011. County plans must be filed by October 15, 2011.

Schools may begin filing their redistricting plans November 15, 2011, and they must be filed by May 12, 2012.

[§49.7, 275.23A]

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What is the penalty or fee if a city, county, or school does not file a plan?

If the Secretary of State's Office determines a city council, county board of supervisors or temporary redistricting commission, or school board failed to make the required changes by the deadline, the Secretary of State's Office must make or ensure the necessary changes are made. The appropriate entity will be assessed the cost to make the changes.

[§49.7, 275.23A(3), 331.209(4), 331.210]

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Can a city or county challenge their population count?

Yes. For more information, visit the Census Bureau's official webpage http://2010.census.gov/2010census/about/cqr.php.

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Can a member of the public challenge the precinct boundaries or the district boundaries?

  • U.S. Representative District Boundaries

  • No. No formal legal process exists for challenging U.S. representative district boundaries.

    However, the state temporary redistricting commission must hold at least three public hearings throughout the state on the proposed plan it submits to the General Assembly.

    [§42.6(3)]

  • State Senate and Representative District Boundaries

  • No. No formal legal process exists for challenging state senate and representative district boundaries.

    However, the state temporary redistricting commission must hold at least three public hearings throughout the state on the proposed plan it submits to the General Assembly.

    [§42.6(3)]

  • City Precinct and/or Ward Boundaries

  • No. No formal legal process exists for challenging city precinct and/or ward boundaries.

    However, the city council must hold a public hearing before adopting the final precinct and ward boundaries.

    [§49.5]

  • School Director District Boundaries

  • No. No formal legal process exists for challenging school director district boundaries.

    However, eligible electors in the school district may petition for a special election to approve or disapprove of the school board's plan to change the method of election and/or the number of directors if the school board did not provide for a special election. The petition must be filed with the board's secretary and meet the following requirements:

    • Filed by the 28th day following the board's action
    • Contain a minimum of 30 percent of the total number of voters at the last regular school election or 100, whichever is greater

    If a petition is filed, the board may either rescind its action or direct the county auditor to submit the question at a special election.

    [§275.23A(2)]

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Why should Plan 2 and 3 counties draw supervisor district boundaries before the cities in the county draw their precinct boundaries?

The SOS Office recommends supervisor district boundaries be drawn before city precinct boundaries simply for ease. Supervisor district boundaries have more requirements, specifically population variation requirements, than city precinct boundaries.

However, city precinct boundary plans are due 30 days before county plans, so the county and cities should work together to ensure both the legal requirements and deadlines are met.

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