Thursday, February 14, 2013

Supervisor Districts: The Numbers Don't Add Up

The Officially stated goal of the Republican Party's scheme to gerrymander Rod Sullivan or Janelle Rettig out of office by carving the county into five districts is "to increase rural representation."

As we all know from Bush-era budgets, the Republicans have trouble making numbers add up. So today we'll do some math. And I've brought along my favorite expert.

I'm here with redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering. Thanks for stopping by, Jerry.

Deeth, you know I hate this squeaky clean Iowa districting stuff, but you gotta work with the rules ya got.

So what are those rules?

Well, assuming the Republicans get the signatures and win the election, and those are two big ifs, we need to chop the county up into five equal parts. Did you get me those Census numbers?

Right here, Jerry.

City 2010 Census
Iowa City 67,862
University Heights 1,051
IC-UH Combined 68,913
Coralville 18,907
North Liberty 13,374
Tiffin 1,947
Hills 703
Lone Tree 1,300
Oxford 807
Shueyville 577
Solon 2,037
Swisher 879
City Total 109,444
Rural/West Branch Total 21,273
County Total 130,882

Thanks. I forgot about that weird city surrounded by a city thing. They ever get that church zoning thing figured out?

Not yet. Another election this fall.

OK. So youse got 130,882 bodies. Divide that by five, and that's your ideal population for a district: 26,176, give or take a half a body.

You're scary when you talk about a half a body.

I used to work in New Jersey and if you asked for a half a body, well, I knew a guy.

OK, so Iowa law says you can only chop a city into the smallest possible number of pieces. And Iowa City is your 800 pound gorilla, almost 53 percent of your population. Throw in that Unihoosity Heights thing and you get two districts all out of Iowa City and more than half of a third one. Even if you add a piece of rurals to each Iowa City seat, that's still an 86 percent city seat.

So that means Iowa City permanently controls three Board seats?

Probably. Depends on the plan. You chooses from three plans: the supervisors have to live in the district and everybody votes, they live in the district and only the district votes, or you keep the at large which youse got now.

Bob Dvorsky told me to ask about Coralville.

That's 72% of a district. Kind of like Marion in Linn County, just the right size. Didn't you call that The District Draws Itself?

Yeah, I did. Can you take Coralville and put it with the rest of Iowa City, kind of like Dave Jacoby's House seat?

Nope. Coralville and the rest of Iowa City is 35,467, almost 9000 too many.

How about Coralville and PART of the rest of Iowa City.

You weren't listening. Iowa City has to be chopped into the smallest number of pieces, and that's three.

I got scared when you started talking about half a body.

Kid, if you can't chop things into pieces you don't belong in this business.

Sorry, I'm from Iowa.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go milk the pigs. Anyway, that was the problem Linn County had, see? Cedar Rapids had exactly the right number of bodies for three whole districts. The county wanted to make four, with each city district gettin' a slice of rural, like they had before. But the state said no. So they had to do three all in Cedar Rapids and the fourth one mostly Marion.

What about the fifth?

A work of art. Accidential genius. It's a big freakin' donut with one little bite out of it down by the airport.  I would be proud to call it my own work.

Great. Can't you make one like that for the Johnson County Republicans? I think that's what they want: an all rural district they can win.

They ain't gonna win it anyway but I'll humor youse for the sake of argument. You gotta deal with North Liberty yet. They're 51 percent of a district and they have to stay together. So you have to put some of your rurals with Coralville, some with North Liberty, and some with that leftover part of Iowa City.

Can you do Coralville and North Liberty together?

Nope. You got about 6000 excess bodies. Or as we call it in New Jersey, a landfill.

So the only way to make five districts is: three mostly in Iowa City, one mostly in Coralville and one mostly in North Liberty?

There's some brains under that beret after all.

The Republicans think this is their way to elect more rural supervisors.

You kiddin' me? Yeah, good luck with that, pal. You permanently lock in at least two from Iowa City and one from Coralville, and probably a third one from Iowa City and one from North Liberty. The rurals don't have nothin' left. You told me yesterday they did pretty good electing rural people at large, as long as it was rural Democrats they was electing.

That's right.

Well, you still got a lot of room in how you chop up those rural pieces.

Not really. We have to do this the clean Iowa way.

Deeth, you are no fun at all. But I like ya anyway. Come out to Jersey sometime and I'll show youse how we do it.

OK, as long as we don't go near that landfill.

Or as we call it in New Jersey the 86th Assembly District.

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