The nation’s high court sounded skeptical this week about the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission. Good thing Wisconsin didn’t follow Arizona’s model for encouraging fair voting district maps. Instead, Wisconsin’s bipartisan reformers have patterned their good-government redistricting bill on neighboring Iowa. “So we’re safe,” Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said Thursday. “If anything, it shows we were wise to do this.” The U.S. Supreme Court may strike down Arizona’s independent redistricting commission this summer if justices determine the U.S. Constitution forbids state voters from taking away the power of elected state legislatures to decide how U.S. House members are elected, the Associated Press reported Monday. But the Iowa model, which Wisconsin seeks to mirror, doesn’t do that.
Iowa assigns the task of drawing its legislative and congressional districts after each major census to a nonpartisan state agency. The agency is required to draw the maps as contiguous as possible and without consideration for incumbents.
If the Iowa legislature doesn’t like the agency-drawn maps, it can reject them. But lawmakers can’t amend the maps themselves, and they must explain what they don’t like.
The nonpartisan state agency then redrafts the lines of voting districts. If the Iowa legislature still doesn’t like the maps, then lawmakers can reject them again and take over the task.
But that has never happened. In fact, Iowa’s legislature approved the first version of the agency’s maps after the 2010 census with huge bipartisan majorities.