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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 -- 12:24 PM

With Wisconsin citizens and their legislators deeply divided, this year?s redistricting process will likely grow very heated?but a neighboring state might have a better way.

Here in Wisconsin, the old adage ?to the victor go the spoils? is very apropos when it comes to redistricting. The state legislature redraws state legislative and congressional district lines every ten years, in conjunction with new data from the U.S. Census.

So, the party in power at the turn-of-the-decade has the ability to redraw lines to suit their reelection chances.

There are no such politics involved in the Iowa process.

Ed Cook is the head of the non-partisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency.

"The Legislative Services Agency is directed to develop a combined legislative and congressional redistricting plan, which is then presented to the legislature for their approval or disapproval," he explains.

The Iowa legislature can either approve or disapprove of the first and 2nd drafts of the maps, but if they vote down the 3rd map, the Iowa Supreme Court redistricts the state.

"Since 1981, in this process, the legislature has always taken one of the plans we presented," Cook notes. "In this most recent round of redistricting, the Legislature accepted the first plan, which was enacted in April. We're officially done redistricting for this decade."

The Agency just goes where the population data leads them. They don?t worry about the political ramifications; for instance, sitting legislators often find themselves in a different district. This time around, the Iowa Senate President was ?pared."

"He's going to retire," Cook laughs. "Because we don't look at incumbents, we pare incumbents."

The displaced politicians have three options: call it a day, run as a challenger in their new district or move into the district they currently represent.

Cook says it might be frustrating for some, but the state's politicians and voters have been "excepting" of the process. "It basically resolves redistricting fairly quickly," he says.

"Both parties feel it gives them a fair chance in the upcoming decade. It's going to fall more harshly on some rather than others, but it's not based on any partisan calculation. It's just based on how the numbers set up," Cook explains.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.