Pottawattamie County will hold a special election on Aug. 1 to determine how future board of supervisors elections are conducted, a move community organizers and labor groups hope will create better representation in county government.
The Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors approved the special election when it met Tuesday, in response to a petition from the Western Iowa Labor Federation AFL-CIO and the Concerned Citizens of Pottawattamie County, a nonpartisan coalition of community groups. (The group was also one of the groups demanding answers after a previous iteration of the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors used COVID relief funds to buy a ski hill.)
The board approved the request six days after residents presented the county with nearly 4,000 signatures—only 2,909 were needed, which is 10% of the total from the 2022 general election—to trigger the special election.
The election will determine how the county elects its five-person board of supervisors moving forward. As is, all five board members are elected at large. Opponents of the status quo argue this does not allow equal representation for the entire county since historically, most of the board lives in the western half of the county.
In its current makeup, the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors has four members who live in the western half of the county, including two who live in Council Bluffs, the county’s largest city.
Additionally, at 959 square miles, Pottawattamie is Iowa’s second-largest county, trailing only Kossuth. Pottawattamie County’s size is why petition signers argue that having supervisor districts is important to give voters truer representation.
“A rural school teacher from Oakland who might want to run for office cannot currently compete with the political machine of Council Bluffs,” said Concerned Citizens member Geri Frederiksen, who lives in Council Bluffs. “Districting is an opportunity to let the citizens of rural communities believe it is possible to run for office and win in a county as big as Pottawattamie County.”
Voters will be presented with three options on their ballots:
- Plan one (the current method): at-large and without district residence requirement for the members.
- Plan two: at-large, but with equal-population district residence requirements for the members.
- Plan three: form single-member, equal-population districts in which the voters of each district shall elect one member who must reside in that district.
Organizers are pushing for plan three, including Shawna Anderson of the Concerned Citizens.
“Plan three makes the most sense to represent all voters of Pottawattamie County,” said Anderson, who lives in Oakland (population of about 1,500). “We all live here, and we all deserve representation, even rural residents like myself.”
by Ty Rushing
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated where most of the current Pottawattamie supervisors reside.
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