Questions answered about upcoming Floyd County special election
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
After a special election to be held in Floyd County in a week and a half, voters will either continue selecting county supervisors the same way they have for more than 50 years, or switch to a completely new way.
The special election, to be held Tuesday, Aug. 3, will ask voters to choose among three plans, named simply Plan One, Plan Two and Plan Three. Whichever plan gets the most votes is the one that will go into effect for the next general election, in November 2022.
The Iowa Code lays out the particulars for the three plan options and how they would go into effect. The code also says that a plan that is chosen in a special election must stay in effect for at least six years.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PLANS?
Plan One — This is the plan that Floyd County is currently using, with supervisors elected at large.
- Who can run for supervisor? Any registered voter living in Floyd County, regardless of where that person lives.
- Who can vote? All voters in the county can vote for every supervisor seat that is up for election.
Plan Two — Representation by district, but voted at-large. The county would be divided into three districts, with an equal population in each district.
- Who can run? Candidates must live in the district they are seeking to represent.
- Who can vote? Every voter can vote for all the seats that are up for election, regardless of district. So voters would help chose the supervisors even for the districts they don’t live in.
Plan Three — Representation by district and election by district. The county would be divided into three districts of equal population, but the districts would have to follow existing county precinct lines.
- Who can run? Candidates must live in the district they are seeking to represent.
- Who can vote? Voters can vote only for the candidates in the district where the voters live. They would have no say in who represents the other districts.
WHY ARE WE HOLDING THIS SPECIAL ELECTION?
Members of the Coalition for Better County Government and others helped gather names on a petition that resulted in the current county Board of Supervisors setting the special election, as provided for in the Iowa Code.
There was an initial disagreement between the three current supervisors and the Coalition whether all the signatures collected should be counted, and the supervisors voted to reject the petition.
Gordon Boge, president of the Coalition, filed a motion in district court asking a judge to force the supervisors to set the special election, but before a judge could rule on that and a subsequent motion that was filed by Boge, the supervisors and Boge came to an agreement where the supervisors would set the special election and Boge would drop the legal action.
Boge told the Press that his group is urging people to vote for Plan three.
“We need some representation from the western side of the county,” Boge said, referring to the fact that all three current supervisors live in or near Charles City.
Supervisors Doug Kamm and Roy Schwickerath both live in Charles City, and Supervisor Linda Tjaden lives on a farm less than 4 miles northeast of Charles City.
Boge said he believes that having the county divided into districts will make it easier to find candidates that represent all parts of the county.
Right now, people from other parts of the county are reluctant to run, because there is a perception that there are enough voters in Charles City to decide who wins, he said.
“Nobody wants to buck the system, but I think we’ve got plenty of qualified people to come from the western side of the county to take those seats,” he said.
Boge said any system with districts would be better than what’s in place now, but he said the people who live in a district will best know what issues are important to them, and are most likely to know the candidates seeking to represent them.
The people who live in a district should pick their supervisor, as they would under Plan Three, he said, adding, “That way they’re up to speed and they know what’s going on in that area, what needs to be done.”
The Coalition for Better County Government is also advertising its support for Plan Three as a way to “stop the reckless spending,” a reference to what members of the group see as overspending on the new county law enforcement center and courthouse update project because of decisions made by the current supervisors.
HOW WOULD A CHANGE AFFECT CURRENT SUPERVISORS?
If voters choose either Plan Two or Plan Three that call for districts, then all three supervisors’ seats would be open in the next general election, in November 2022. One new district supervisor would serve for two years initially, and the other two districts’ supervisors would have four-year terms, with which district gets which decided by lot before the primary election.
If voters approve a plan with districts, it is possible that two or even all three of the current supervisors could end up in the same district.
Supervisors Kamm and Schwickerath could likely end up in the same district, as they both live in Charles City Precinct 1. They could both run for election, as Kamm is a Republican and Schwickerath is a Democrat — but only one of them could be elected to their district. And they could also face additional candidates in the primary and/or the general election.
If Kamm and Tjaden, who is also a Republican, ended up in the same district and they both wanted to run for the seat, the Republican candidate would be decided in the party primary, unless one of them decided to run as no-party. Even if they both ran, only one could be elected if they were in the same district, and other candidates could be running as well.
Kamm’s and Schwickerath’s current terms will be up for election in November 2022 anyway. Neither of them has indicated if he will seek reelection next year. Tjaden was reelected to a second four-year term last year in the November 2020 election, so if the voters choose a district option her current term would be cut in half.
HOW WOULD THE DISTRICTS BE DRAWN?
The Iowa Code calls for the districts to be drawn by a “temporary county redistricting commission,” with members selected by the county board of supervisors and with the plans drawn before Feb. 15 of the election year, in this case 2022.
Any plan drawn by the commission needs to follow Iowa laws regarding not using political considerations in drawing the districts. The plan is presented to the public and at least one public hearing is held, then the plan is presented to the supervisors for approval.
If the supervisors reject the first plan, the commission will draw up a second plan. The supervisors can amend that second plan if they choose, but if they do amend it they must also issue a statement explaining why the amendment was necessary to bring the plan into closer conformity with Iowa Code requirements.
Once approved by the supervisors, the districting plan is submitted to the state commissioner of elections — the secretary of state — for final approval.
The 2019 estimated census for Floyd County shows a population of 15,786. Dividing that up into three districts would put about 5,262 people in each district.
The latest population estimate for Charles City is 7,185, so the residents of Charles city would have to be members of at least two of the three districts for the districts to be of nearly equal size, as is required.
The districts could even be drawn with residents of Charles City in all three of the county districts, for example, putting one of Charles City’s three precincts into each county district.
If one Charles City precinct was put in each district, the Charles City residents would represent about 45% of each district.
All of these numbers are approximations, and the population of a district doesn’t necessarily correspond directly with the number of eligible voters.
And all of these numbers will change, anyway, assuming the results of the 2020 U.S. Census are released before county districts are drawn.
If you have additional questions that you would like answered before the special election, send them to email@example.com.
- Special election Tuesday, Aug. 3.
- All eight usual Floyd County polling places open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- In-person absentee voting can be done in the Auditor’s Office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and extended hours until 5 p.m. on July 30 and August 2.
- It is too late to request an absentee ballot by mail. All returned absentee ballots must be received in the Auditor’s Office by the close of polls on election day.