In a locked windowless chamber across the street from the Iowa State House, three bureaucrats sequester themselves for 45 days every decade after census data is released. Their top-secret task: the “redistricting” of the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries. But here, unlike in most other states, every care is taken to ensure the process is not political. The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress. No politician — not the governor, the House speaker, or Senate majority leader — is allowed to weigh in, or get a sneak preview. Instead of drawing lines that favor a single political party, the Iowa mapmakers abide by nonpartisan metrics that all sides agree are fair — a seemingly revolutionary concept in the high-stakes decennial rite of redistricting. Most other states blatantly allow politics to be infused into the process, leaving the impression — and sometimes the reality — that the election system is being rigged. And it has long, maybe always, been this way.
The infamous gerrymander, after all, was coined in 1812 after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a law that allowed a salamander-shaped district that benefited his party. But some believe that partisan practice is now helping take the country over the edge, that extremism and gridlock are byproducts of politically motivated redistricting.
In the 2012 election, for example, Democrats nationally won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans in US House races, but Republicans won control of the House by a 234-201 margin — a lopsided result that some blame on redistricting.
A typical example, profiled earlier this year by the Globe, came in North Carolina, where a Republican-controlled legislature redrew district boundaries; Democrats there won 51 percent of the US House vote but were awarded only four of 13 seats. By comparison, in Iowa, with its impartial way of drawing congressional districts, the results are viewed as a model of equity — and a model for the nation.
Full Article: Iowa keeping partisanship off the map | Boston Globe