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West Virginia Senate Redistricting Committee Makes Short Work of Maps

Photo Courtesy W.Va. Legislative Photography Senate Redistricting Committee Co-Chairman Dave Sypolt listens to a presentation Monday.

CHARLESTON — The committee in the West Virginia Senate considering redistricting maps approved a congressional map that splits the state into north and south, while an approved senatorial map raised concerns with Democratic committee members.

The state Senate gaveled in Monday morning for a special session focused on drawing new congressional and statehouse districts. The Senate Redistricting Committee met Monday afternoon for just over 30 minutes.

The committee tackled the congressional districts issue first with no discussion. West Virginia’s population dropped from 1.85 million in 2010 to 1.79 million in 2020, resulting in the state dropping from three congressional districts to two. The U.S. and state Constitutions require the redrawing of congressional and statehouse districts every 10 years in conjunction with the release of U.S. Census population numbers.

Out of 24 congressional maps proposed by committee members since Sept. 16, the committee voted on a plan submitted by Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan. Called Trump No. 11, the plan would split the state into a northern and southern congressional district.

The proposed new House of Representatives district map advanced by the West Virginia Senate Redistricting Committee on Monday.

Everything north of Jackson, Wirt, Ritchie, Gilmer, Braxton, Webster, and Pocahontas counties would become the new 1st Congressional District.

The map ensures that 1st District Congressman David McKinley (Ohio County) and 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney (Jefferson County) would face each other in a Republican primary if the full Senate and the House of Delegates approve the map. Carol Miller, the congresswoman for the 3rd District and a resident of Cabell County, would have the new 2nd District to herself.

Federal and state constitutions require congressional districts to be as close to equal in population as possible and be compact. The state Constitution also requires that congressional boundaries be bounded by county boundaries. According to committee staff, Trump No. 11 had one of the better compactness scores and has a population deviation of less than 1 percent.

Approval of a map making changes to the state Senate’s 17 districts also passed quickly, but not before two minority committee members raised concerns about how the map could divide certain counties.

The committee approved a senatorial map called Trump No. 8. The map is notable for giving Monongalia County its own two-member district due to its population growth since the 2010 Census. Traditionally, Monongalia County is split between the 13th Senatorial District with part of Marion County; and the 2nd Senatorial District with Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie Calhoun counties, and parts of Gilmer and Marshall counties.

The proposed new West Virginia Senate district map advanced by that body’s Redistricting Committee on Monday.

While Monongalia County would get its own senatorial district, all of Marion County would be part of the new 2nd District. State Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said it would make more sense to combine Marion into the 12th District due to sharing the I-79 High Technology Corridor and the North Central West Virginia Airport.

“Since 1917, somehow and someway, Marion and Monongalia counties have always been together,” Caputo said. “I am extremely concerned about the way Marion County will be drawn into this district … If we were going to keep Monongalia whole, it would seem to me that Marion and Harrison would be a much better fit than what Trump No.n8 displays today.”

House Minority Whip Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, joined the voice vote for the Trump No. 8 senatorial district map but changed his vote to no later Monday evening. Woelfel accused the majority party of planning to amend the map on the Senate floor at some point and split Cabell County between two senatorial districts.

“I see this map as a Trojan horse that is going down the hall just to be changed when it gets to the floor,” Woelfel said. “It will cut Cabell in half.”

Cabell County and the northwest corner of Wayne County have traditionally shared the 5th Senatorial District. The map approved by the committee Monday also keeps that plan mostly intact. But Woelfel said any effort by Senate Republicans to split up Cabell County by amending the map on the floor would violate the state and U.S. constitutions and be less than transparent for the public.

“By dividing up Cabell County … it’s being done for one purpose, and that’s for gerrymandering,” Woelfel said. “Before you actually vote on a map, examine your conscience … please read the constitution and take a look at it. This is not a (Republican or Democrat) thing. I’ll either be here a year from now or not. The system could even do better with my absence more so than my presence. But we have a solemn duty.”

Senate Redistricting Committee Co-Chairman Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, said the approved senatorial map had the fewest splitting of counties, with seven splits. Sypolt said splitting some counties is unavoidable if the goal is as few population deviations between districts as possible.

“It is difficult. We have parts of our state that lose population and parts of our state that are gaining populations, so the lines in our districts are going to move,” Sypolt said. “I’ve seen better maps, but I’ve seen much worse maps. I think that overall, the districts presented here are acceptable and reasonable.”

After gaveling back in briefly Monday evening, the Senate Redistricting Committee had to reconvene to reconsider both bills due to technical flaws, re-adopting the bills with the issues corrected. The full Senate suspended the rules to put both bills on first reading, setting up passage of the bills by Wednesday.

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