Upcoming Reshuffle in the West Virginia House of Delegates | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON – As lawmakers must divide the proverbial baby by dividing West Virginia into two congressional districts, they must also start drawing new boundaries for the West Virginia legislature.
Thirty-four senators represent 17 senatorial constituencies with two members per constituency. About 100 delegates represent 67 delegated districts. Much like the Congressional Redistribution, the Legislative Redistribution is done every 10 years when the US Census releases its decennial data.
West Virginia’s population fell 3.1% from 1.85 million in 2010 to 1.79 million in 2020. Lawmakers will not only have to deal with population loss, but population changes as well. .
Areas of growth in the state include the Morgantown / Monongalia County region, the Eastern Panhandle, and Putnam County along I-64 between Huntington and Charleston.
While the Senate’s job will involve adjusting the boundaries, members of the House of Delegates will need to consider moving from a handful of multi-member districts to 100 single-member districts.
The House Redistricting Committee got a first glimpse of what these districts might look like during its first organizational meeting Thursday on Capitol Hill.
The first draft map was based in part on feedback from 12 regional town halls and three virtual town halls held by the Joint Committee on Redistribution since July.
“In 2018, House Bill 4002 requires a big change for the House of Delegates in the form of single member districts,” said Jeff Billings, Chief of Staff to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. “We are facing a loss of population, but we also have population displacements. We have kept many of the current district lines where they make sense in census counts and in daily practice. “
House Speaker Pro Tempore Gary Howell, R-Mineral, is the Chairman of the House Redistricting Committee and Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Redistricting. Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Howell said much of the public commentary supported the move to single-member ridings.
“As we visited the state on our listening tour, we heard a lot of people say they liked the idea of single member districts,” Howell said. “I was a little surprised that we have a lot of this from the current multi-member districts. They welcomed the idea of single-member districts. They said: ‘We are finally going to elect someone who is very likely from our region and who can focus their efforts on us.’ “
Of the current 67 House Districts, 11 are two-member districts, six are three-member districts, two are four-member districts, and one is a five-member district in the Morgantown area.
All of these multi-member ridings should be divided into single-member ridings. In some cases, this could place current House MPs, even those from the same political party, in the same new single-member constituency, requiring a primary.
“We knew it would probably happen,” Howell said. “When we made this map, we said ‘don’t look where anyone lives.’ Don’t do that. You still have a general idea, but let’s not look at it in particular. Let’s draw them according to what people have told us. And if that works, we’re probably not going to have that many people in the same neighborhood.
Howell said there were probably 10 pairs of delegates who were probably in a district. It is likely that members will bring proposals for alternative maps to the public for consideration ahead of a special session that is expected to be called the week of October 10.
The new draft district plan renumber the districts as well. Instead of starting in the Northern Enclave with District 1, District 1 would start in McDowell County and end at the top of the Northern Enclave with District 100. The cartographers also considered communities of interest. which consist of groups of any size with similar interests. , concerns and values.
“We have been careful to keep counties and municipalities as complete as possible where requested,” Billings said. “And you will see a few cases where the opposite has been asked of us. We have also tried to take into account communities of interest as much as possible. This could be geographic, historical, economic, socio-economic and even media markets, school districts and modes of transportation. “
Like the congressional and state senate districts, delegate districts are required by law and constitution to be as close to the people as possible. However, as long as the maximum population gap between the largest and the smallest district is less than 10%, the courts have determined that these redistribution maps comply with the federal one-person, one-vote rule.
“When it comes to legislative redistribution, there are also requirements for equal representation and nearly equal population for districts,” said Dan Greear, attorney for the Speaker’s Office. However, there is a different standard when drawing state and local districts. Jurisdictions are allowed to deviate somewhat from complete equality of population to take into account traditional district goals. Among them, the preserving the integrity of political subdivisions, maintaining communities of interest and creating geographic compactness.
As a result, it sometimes meant slicing up counties like a cake.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, used the example of Putnam County in a recent editorial. Although not on the House Redistribution Committee, Fleischauer served on the Joint Redistribution Committee from 2000 and 2010, as well as Chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Review for 18 years.
“After the 2010 census, the population (of Putnam County) alone would have warranted three delegates, all within the county limits,” Fleischauer said. “Instead, Putnam County was divided into five delegated districts (the 13th, 14th, 15th, 22nd and 38th), covering seven counties.
“More than most states, West Virginia identifies as residents of a particular county, rather than residents of towns or cities,” Fleischauer said. “The state’s constitutional requirements that districts must meet counties are consistent with this view.”
Fleischauer also said sticking to county boundaries for delegate districts could help limit the possibility of political gerrymandering, where lawmakers draw the lines in a way that benefits them in future elections.
“For example, if county lines are ignored, district lines could be drawn by placing an incumbent’s opponent in a district that includes large parts of another county where the party’s registration is different, which makes it harder for the opponent to win, ”said Fleischauer. “In carrying out its redistribution duties, the West Virginia legislature must adhere to the mandatory language of our state constitution relating to counties, or fully explain, in writing, why any deviation from these rules is necessary.
Greear, when explaining the constitutional and legal requirements of the state and the United States for redistribution, disagreed with Fleischauer’s assessment.
“The West Virginia Supreme Court (of Appeal) has indicated that the division of county boundaries is not, per se, unconstitutional under our constitutional provisions,” said Greear. “(The Supreme Court) also had a brief discussion on the cases of partisan gerrymandering. It was clear that there would be a very heavy burden to overcome in bringing a partisan gerrymandering case to state court. “