West Virginia legislators have begun their listening tour to receive public comment on how to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries after the Census Bureau releases detailed population data next month.
One question to be answered is how the 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be allotted. The current 100 House members are elected from 67 districts. Of those, 22 members are elected from 11 two-member districts, 18 are elected from six three-member districts, eight are elected from two four-member districts and five are elected from a five-member district. Five in one district is too many, but it’s better than the first decade of the 2000s when Kanawha County had a seven-member district.
Three years ago, the Legislature passed a law requiring 100 single-member districts in this cycle. That’s true to the one person, one vote guidance laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court years ago. The trick will be deciding which delegates who live in multi-member districts will be forced to face off against each other in next year’s primary, if there indeed will be any.
Redistricting the Senate may be a bit more difficult, as there are only 17 districts in an oddly shaped state whose population density varies widely. It’s easy to keep districts in the panhandles and the interior counties relatively compact, but central and southern counties along the borders make for some bizarre districts.
The 6th District is the worst example of this. It contains all of Monroe County, most of McDowell County and parts of Mingo and Wayne counties along the Kentucky border. That means someone in Monroe County who lives a few miles from Lewisburg has the same two state senators as someone who lives in Prichard in northern Wayne County. That’s just not right, and it must be corrected.
With West Virginia’s membership in the U.S. House of Representatives dropping from three to two in the 2022 election, the question is whether to divide the state north-south or east-west. The north-south division is the most logical, but the answer may be determined by which of the state’s three House members — David McKinley, Alex Mooney or Carol Miller — the state Republican Party wants to protect and which two it will throw against each other, assuming all three plan to run next year.
The window for comment is a short one. If you have something legislators should know about redistricting, now is the time to say it.