Redistricting history and process
Since attaining statehood, Iowa has had as many as 11 congressional districts. However, since the Great Depression, a declining population and national population growth have seen this number slowly whittle down. Iowa currently has four congressional districts; it lost its fifth congressional district after the 2010 Census.
Redistricting in Iowa is handled in an unusual manner. Maps are drawn by an independent redistricting commission, but the legislature has the authority to accept or reject the proposed maps. The legislature can, after three attempts, modify the maps. Iowa also forbids splitting counties in congressional maps, which substantially reduces the ability of either party to gerrymander. The Governor of Iowa has the authority to veto maps.
With Republicans holding a trifecta, Democrats expressed concern that Republicans would attempt to undermine the process. These concerns did not pan out; the legislature and Governor Kim Renyolds approved the second proposed map. The approved map, features one strongly Republican district and three competitive districts. All districts voted for Donald Trump in 2020, but three of them did so by a margin of under 5% – below his 8% statewide victory. In 2018’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Fred Hubbell would have carried a majority of districts.
Iowa is one of the whitest states in the country; 85.5% of the population are non-Hispanic whites, the 6th-highest percentage in the country. None of Iowa’s congressional districts have a sizable minority population. The district with the highest percentage of minority voters is the 3rd, home to Des Moines, the largest city in Iowa.
|District||Bachelor’s or higher||Rank (of 435)||Non-college white||Rank (of 435)|
Iowa’s educational attainment is below-average relative to other states. Only one district – the 3rd – ranks in the top two quartiles for college education. Each of the other districts ranks in the bottom two quartiles. Owing to Iowa’s large white population, every district in the state ranks in the top quartile for non-college white voters.
Iowa shifted slightly left from 2016 to 2020, but this shift on 1.2% was far less than the national shift of 2.4%. Accordingly, Iowa actually trended slightly right relative to the country. With the redrawn congressional map, three of Iowa’s congressional districts are competitive, although only one (CD03) is considered a Tossup ahead of the 2024 cycle.
As recently as 2018, Democrats actually won a majority of congressional districts in Iowa. They nearly flipped CD04 in large part due to far-right Republican Steve King’s increasingly controversial reputation. These gains were erased in 2020, when Republicans flipped back districts 1 and 2 – the latter by an impossibly small margin of six votes. Due to the map’s competitive nature, it’s quite possible that Democrats could remain competitive in Iowa for the near future.
2022 election results
|1||Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R)||46.6%||53.3%||R+6.7%|
|2||Ashley Hinson (R)||45.8%||54.1%||R+8.3%|
|3||Cindy Axne (D)||49.6%||50.2%||R+0.6%|
|4||Randy Feenstra (R)||30.4%||67.3%||R+36.9%|
In the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans won all of Iowa’s congressional districts for the first time since 1994. The marquee race in the 3rd district saw incumbent Cindy Axne narrowly lose to Zach Nunn, although by a smaller margin than expected. This district will likely be one of the nation’s top battlegrounds in 2024.
Democrats failed to make inroads in either of the other competitive districts, most disappointingly in the 1st, where Mariannette Miller-Meeks won a second term by a comfortable margin. Republicans outperformed Trump’s 2020 numbers in every district, most notably in the 4th district, where incumbent Randy Feenstra ran nearly 11 points ahead of Trump.
- IA-01: Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-LeClaire)
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-Marion)
- IA-03: Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant)
- IA-04: Randy Feenstra (R-Hull)