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Iowa Supreme Court weighs in on redistricting as Census Bureau warns of delay in sending data

The state's high court shared its tentative plans in a release Thursday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Editor's Note: The video above is from February 17, 2021.

A delay of U.S. census data means lawmakers are up against two big deadlines in September to approve new maps for House and Senate districts, which could affect representation for Iowans.

On Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court said in a statement it's prepared to handle redistricting only if the General Assembly doesn't "enact a reapportionment before September 15 of the redistricting year."

The Legislature has to enact state legislative plans by Sept. 1, and the Iowa Supreme Court takes over if the legislature hasn't done so by the 15th, according to the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. 

Moreover, the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, a non-partisan agency, is tasked with drawing maps for the Iowa congressional and legislative districts once they receive the census data.

The Iowa Supreme Court said because they're a court, they don't comment publicly on issues that would come before them.

"Nevertheless, because of the considerable public concern surrounding the redistricting process, and because the court is aware that other state supreme courts have issued orders relating to redistricting, the supreme court has decided to make a statement concerning its tentative plans," they said.

The court said it "....tentatively plans to meet its constitutional responsibility by implementing a process which permits, to the extent possible, the redistricting framework presently set forth in Iowa Code chapter 42 to proceed after September 15. "

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Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have offered their take on the Court's decision.

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls gave the following statement on the plans, emphasizing the court's impartiality:

“As we began the 2021 redistricting process in Iowa, Governor Reynolds, Legislative Republicans, and Legislative Democrats have all promised that we will not change Iowa’s redistricting law. Iowans need fair maps and a fair redistricting process so voters can pick their legislators instead of legislators picking their voters.

“Fair maps require the best possible data from U.S. Census Bureau, which may result in our state missing the September 15 constitutional deadline. The Supreme Court will have a crucial role if that delay occurs, and it is imperative that the Court ensure we continue Iowa’s long tradition of fair maps for every Iowan.”

Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley also offered a statement:

 “Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process is considered one of the fairest in all 50 states. I appreciate the Iowa Supreme Court’s willingness to protect the integrity of our current, highly-praised redistricting process in Iowa.”