LOGAN — The West Virginia Legislature Joint Committee on Redistricting conducted a public hearing at the Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center on Thursday, July 29.
The hearing was one of 12 public stops for the committee. The forums give the public a chance to provide their input on district boundary lines for state and federal elected offices. Under the West Virginia Constitution, those boundaries are required to be determined every 10 years per data from the U.S. Census.
Elected officials who attended included Sen. Charles S. Trump (R-Morgan, 15), Del. Zack Maynard (R-Lincoln, 22), Sen. Rupie Phillips (R-Logan, 7), Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 7), Del. Joe Statler (R-Monongalia, 51), Del. Daniel Linville (R-Cabell, 16), Del. Margitta Mazzocchi (R-Logan, 24), Sen. Glenn D. Jeffries (D-Putnam, 8), Sen. Mike Caputo (D-Marion, 13), Sen. Eric Tarr (R-Putnam, 4), Del. Ed Evans (D-McDowell, 36), Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37), Del. Jordan Bridges (R-Logan, 24), Del. Kayla Young (D-Kanawha, 35) and Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay, 37).
“The purpose of this public hearing is to hear from you,” Trump said. “We want to hear your comments, your opinions, on any of what’s over here — Senate districts, House of Delegates districts, Congressional districts.”
Maps showed the current district line configurations, which were drafted after the 2010 U.S. Census. Trump, who serves as chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said no data from the 2020 Census has been released yet and likely will not be until the end of September.
Fourteen of the region’s residents shared their opinions on redistricting. The first was Bobby Lee Mines, whose comments were echoed by others the of the meeting: District lines within Logan and other counties shouldn’t be divided among communities.
“It’s ridiculous that somebody from another county can run in Logan County and represent the citizens in a certain section of Logan County and live outside of Logan County,” Mines said. “You do not see this on the national stage. You do not see this — for instance, nobody from Kentucky can come to West Virginia and say, ‘I want West Virginia votes,’ so why can’t it be the same here in Logan County, where only people from Logan County can get votes from Logan County?”
Other speakers included Harts resident Lacy Workman, then Eugene Mazzocchi, husband of Del. Margitta Mazzocchi. Pine Creek resident Larry Rogers expressed his own frustrations for how the district lines are drawn, outlining specifically those in the Whitman area of Logan County.
“My concern is the district delegates — for instance, you take Whitman Creek, if you go up the right side of Whitman Creek, it is represented by a Mingo County delegate,” Rogers said. “You go so far up Whitman Creek, up to Bradshaw Hollow I believe, it’s represented by a Logan County delegate. If I’m getting this right, across the road, this guy wants to run for House of Delegates, and he’s looking straight over here, across the road, right from him, at his delegate, looking at him straight in the eye, and he cannot represent this guy. We’re rural people, and that may work in cities, or in the north and everywhere else, but it does not work in Logan County, and we’ve got to do better.”
Rogers added that the counties in southern West Virginia are hurting for representation. He then turned his remarks to the Holden area, most of which falls in the Mingo County district lines, represented by District 20 Del. Nathan Brown (D-Mingo).
“I did run for delegate one time,” Rogers said. “I had lots of family up Holden. You know what? What use was there to put a sign in their yard, because they couldn’t vote for me. I couldn’t represent them or anything, so as a country boy, and as an American, we need to keep most of these counties together, honestly, for economic development and just the overall thing of being country people. We need to keep Logan County, Logan County.”
Chapmanville Mayor Joel McNeely said the Chapmanville area is divided among delegates from Logan, Lincoln, Boone and other counties. McNeely, who said he worked the past three censuses, also said census numbers are often incorrect in the area because many people don’t fill them out.
“Nothing against Lincoln County, or Boone County, or Mingo County, but living in Logan County, I do not want a representative from Lincoln County as it is right now … they have very little concern for what’s in Logan County — just to get re-elected, that’s what most of it’s all about,” McNeely said. “... As (Bobby Lee Mines) pointed out, what’s wrong the counties, every county just being the county boards? I know it’s divided up because of how it has to travel with roads and things of that nature, but we need to consider the individuals, too, we’re trying to help out.”
“We got thrown out (of Logan County),” said Becky Nagy, a resident representing both Whitman and Holden, “and we got thrown in with Mingo County, and Whitman did, too, so we want to come back to Logan County and not Mingo County. I called Nathan Brown and talked to the gentleman. I like him, he’s a very nice man, but I told him, ‘I want to come back to Logan County,’ you know, that simple, but he is a good representative.”
Harts resident Lisa Ramey spoke about the U.S. Congressional district lines, which West Virginia is set to drop to two instead of three. She said she hopes the state is divided into a north-south configuration because southern West Virginians have more in common with each other than with the north.
Chapmanville residents Kenny Wilson, Jeff Hargraves, town councilman Ben DesRocher, Phillip Williamson and councilwoman Robin Adams Mutters also spoke at the meeting.
Man area resident Jimmy Porter asked the elected officials to consider extending the filing deadline for the 2022 election cycle due to the census data being late. Porter also discussed what he considers a lack of representation the local side because of how Logan County’s magisterial district map is drawn.
Man resident Rev. Mike Pollard called Logan County’s magisterial map “gerrymandered” in favor of Chapmanville and Logan.
“We in Man have felt like, in some ways, that we have been the doormat of the county for many years,” Pollard said. “No disrespect to any individuals, but it’s just the way it is.”
Pollard said Logan County deserves better because of its millions of coal severance money that it provided for decades. He pleaded with the committee to listen to the citizens’ concerns and not make it another meeting where they just “blow off steam.”
“It’s more than about numbers,” Pollard said. “We keep hearing you say — and I’m not picking on you — ‘When the numbers come in, when we get the count, when we get the data,’ and we know numbers can be manipulated and made to look like … but it’s got to be about demographics, economics, multiculturalism — it can’t just be about numbers. It’s got to have some commonsense approach.”
Sen. Rupie Phillips, a native of the Man area, said he agreed with much of Pollard’s opinions.
South Charleston lawyer Thornton Cooper, who litigated the district lines after the 2010 U.S. Census, gave a presentation on what he thinks would be the most logical way to divide the state.
The public is still encouraged to submit their ideas regarding state redistricting on the web. Proposals can be submitted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.