Redistricting in West Virginia
|Process:||Legislative authority; Governor can veto|
|Total Seats to be Drawn|
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- 1 Process
- 2 Leadership
- 3 Census results
- 4 Congressional maps
- 5 Legislative maps
- 5.1 Single-member districts
- 5.2 GOP files FOIA requests
- 5.3 Legislators produced draft maps
- 5.4 House of Delegates plan got committee approval
- 5.5 Senate plan passed by State Senate
- 5.6 Redistricting plans approved by legislature
- 5.7 Veto expected on House redistricting plan
- 5.8 House plan vetoed, session called
- 5.9 Second session began, Senate redistricting signed
- 5.10 Legislature approved revised House plan
- 5.11 Governor signed revised plan
- 6 Legal issues
- 6.1 Putnam, Hurricane, Chamber threaten lawsuits
- 6.2 Putnam votes to sue, Mason and Raleigh considered
- 6.3 Monroe in, Raleigh out
- 6.4 FOIA request denied
- 6.5 Putnam issues notice of legal action, Mason in
- 6.6 Cooper and three others file notice
- 6.7 Cooper first to file suit
- 6.8 County officials face uncertain districts
- 6.9 Putnam and Mason counties file suit
- 6.10 House Speaker seeks to intervene in defense of maps
- 6.11 Four more lawsuits filed
- 6.12 WV Supreme Court hears arguments
- 6.13 WV Supreme Court upholds redistricting maps
- 6.14 Federal case moved forward
- 6.15 US Supreme Court upholds map
- 7 Reform legislation
- 8 Timeline
- 9 History
- 10 Constitutional explanation
- 11 See also
- 12 External links
- 13 References
West Virginia did not gain or lose any seats from the reapportionment after the 2010 census. The state population increased by 44,650 residents, or 2.5 percent.
The West Virginia Legislature is responsible for redistricting. They are called into a special session to form new legislative districts after the Census data is received. The Governor has the authority to veto any plan for any reason.
Redistricting occurs during a special summer session after the county-level Census data is released. The population, per-delegate, of House districts should be approximately 18,500 as of 2010. Senate districts should contain approximately 54,500 residents per senator or 109,000 total. The House and Senate will each form a special committee, with members chosen by the leaders of each chamber. These committees work with the state's Redistricting Office, which provides analysis, maps, and reports for the final Redistricting Bill.
Senator Herb Snyder (D) explained, "Basically, it will probably take a week to redistrict. ... Once we have official numbers for the whole state, we break that down further by county. We need to know the population by every square foot of the county; that's where you do the splits, physically putting people on maps to know where concentrations are so you can draw the lines."
House Speaker Rick Thompson said that he expected the redistricting session to begin on August 1, 2011. On July 26, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin officially called the August 1 special session.
On April 1, 2011, the West Virginia State Senate launched its Redistricting Task Force. The task force conducted meetings around the state and made recommendations to the full senate. Half of the senate's 34 members were members of the task force. The members were as follows:
House of Delegates
However, statements by Delegate Tiffany Lawrence (D) indicated that the House may already have been crafting maps, prompting criticism for delays in holding public hearings. Others dismissed the criticism, calling the closed door work preparation for the public process. According to House Speaker Rick Thompson, the House Committee likely opted for open meetings at the capitol rather than statewide hearings due to the costs involved.
Thompson was also criticized for failing to appoint Republican Minority Leader Tim Armstead to the committee. Some have alleged that the decision was motivated by a desire to protect Democratic incumbents. Armstead suggested that he was excluded because of his vocal support for single-member districts. Democratic Majority Leader and chairman of the committee, Brent Boggs argued that Democrats are opposed to an "incumbency protection plan" and that Thompson chose the committee with an eye to geographic diversity.
- Robert Ashley
- Denny Canterbury
- Mitch Carmichael
- Walter Duke
- John Ellem
- Allen Evans
- Patrick Lane
- Carol Miller
- Ruth Rowan
- Erikka Storch
Public meeting schedule
The Senate Redistricting Task Force held several informational meetings around the state. Critics charged that the task force was not seeking genuine input on the plans, suggesting that members already had a plan in mind and did not even note public comments. However, task force chairman John Unger defended the meetings, arguing that no plans had been formed and public comments were noted. In addition, Unger stated that the task force hoped to upload video of the hearings to its website. The schedule of hearings was as follows:
|Senate Redistricting Task Force Meeting Schedule|
West Virginia did not lose nor gain Congressional seats due to the 2010 Census.
West Virginia received local data
On March 23, 2011 West Virginia received its local 2010 census data. The data guided the state as it redrew congressional, state, and local electoral districts. Overall, the state grew at a sluggish 2.5%, with six of the seven largest cities in the state losing population. Morgantown, in the North Eastern part of the state, was the only city that experienced net growth over the past decade, growing a respectable 10.6%. The data also corroborated shifts toward the panhandle and showed a slight increase in racial diversity.
While West Virginia did not gain or lose any seats in Congress, population shifts within the state could have altered state House and Senate districts. 2009 estimates suggested that Southern West Virginia and the Northern Panhandle had lost population, while the state's Eastern Panhandle had shown marked growth. Since 1990, seven Southern counties had lost a total of 34,320 residents, and the Northern Panhandle had lost 23,675 residents. The Eastern Panhandle, on the other hand, had gained 76,425 residents since 1990.
Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred and West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Robert Rupp confirmed that, according to early Census data, the state's Eastern Panhandle and north-central regions saw the most amount of growth. To that end, Rupp felt the fight over redistricting could have come down to geography, not partisanship. He stated, "The amazing thing about redistricting is that this handful of people can virtually do anything they want to as long as the numbers add up," Rupp said. "But I just don't believe that this Democratic majority is that partisan ... but it's been done in other states."
Despite the major changes occurring around the nation, West Virginia may have been able to avoid a dramatic overhaul of the state's congressional districts. Only West Virginia's 1st and 2nd Districts had grown over the past decade with the most dramatic growth occurring in District 2. However, by moving Mason County county from District 2 to the shrinking District 3 the imbalance in the state's congressional districts could have been resolved. Moreover, this process would have left the partisan balance of the districts largely unchanged. Historical precedence was established for this method of population balance during the 1991 redistricting when Gilmer County was moved to the 1st District and Nicholas to the 3rd. It remained to be seen whether the legislature would adopt this approach again.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D) argued that keeping counties intact may not have been possible without creating unconstitutional population deviations. He criticized the Mason County option as being insufficiently compact and neglecting community interest. Residents from Mason County expressed concern about being moved into the 3rd District, citing a lack of commonality between itself and the southern coalfields. The Congressional map was drafted by the Senate during July in anticipation of the August 1 special session.
Draft map paired Republicans
Under a working plan for West Virginia's Congressional districts, Republican Reps. Shelly Moore Capito and David McKinley were both drawn inside District 1. The plan, described as "foundational," split Kanawha County between the 1st and 2nd Districts, shifting Charleston into District 1. This would have moved Capito's residence to the 1st District (currently represented by McKinley). The proposed change had outraged state Republicans. A draft of the Congressional map can be found here.
"Mason County flip" adopted by committee
The West Virginia Senate Redistricting Committee recommended the so-called “Mason County flip” for the state’s new Congressional districts. The plan would have kept county lines intact by moving Mason County from the 2nd to the 3rd District. The plan was submitted to the committee by a Wheeling resident, Robert Miller. The county-preserving plan was favored over an earlier plan that split Kanawha County and paired Republican Reps. Shelly Moore Capito and David McKinley. Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler (D) predicted that the full Senate would approve the Mason County plan.
Congressional plan approved
On August 5, 2011, the West Virginia State Legislature approved a congressional redistricting plan that shifted Mason County from the 2nd to the 3rd District. The plan passed the Senate 27-4 and the House of Delegates 90-5. The Senate rejected a plan by Senator Herb Snyder (D) that would have shifted six additional counties. The plan now moved to acting-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for approval. Overall, the final plan was easier on Republicans than alternative plans, but it also involved minimal change to existing Congressional districts. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the plan on August 18, 2011.
- The approved congressional map can be found here.
David "Bugs" Stover, the Circuit Clerk of Wyoming County and president of the West Virginia Association of Circuit Clerks, walked to the State Capitol Complex from Beckley, W.Va. to protest the redistricting maps that were passed by the legislature in August 2011.
The West Virginia panhandle's strong growth resulted in increased representation in the state legislature. The panhandle was expected to pick up two seats in the house and one in the senate. Two panhandle counties, Berkeley and Jefferson, showed the strongest growth in the state, growing 37% and 27% respectively.
Previously, West Virginia elected 100 representatives from 58 districts. While 36 were single-member districts, the remaining 22 were split between 64 delegates. The multi-member system evolved from an earlier system of county-based districts.
Several legislators had expressed support for eliminating multi-member districts and creating 100 individual districts. Proponents of the plan suggested that single-member districts simplify elections and hold representatives to account. Opponents of the plan suggested that multi-member districts allow politicians to better pool resources and share expertise. Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler (D), House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R), Delegate Marty Gearheart (R), and Delegate John O'Neal had voiced support for single-member districts. The Democratic candidate for governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, had expressed qualified support for the plan, and Republican candidate Bill Maloney promised to veto any plan that did not include single-member districts.
In addition, Delegate Rick Snuffer (R) argued that the state's multi-member districts were unconstitutional, and was considering legal action to ensure their elimination. The concept of single-member house districts also seemed to be gaining momentum among attendees of the Senate's redistricting hearings.
In addition, the West Virginia Farm Bureau and West Virginia Chamber of Commerce had come out in support of single-member districts. The Farm Bureau claimed that the current system was biased against rural areas since it could lump rural areas and more densely populated cities into sizable at-large districts, diluting rural representation. One of the districts that had received the most scrutiny is the seven-member 30th House District. The district is the largest in the country (in proportion to total state representation).
Daryl Cowles (R) introduced legislation, HB 2367, which would mandate 100 single-member legislative districts for the West Virginia House of Delegates. A Chamber of Commerce survey had revealed that 61 of the West Virginia's 100 delegates supported shrinking or eliminating some or all of the state's multi-member districts. House Speaker Richard Thompson (D) stated that he had no "particular problems" with creating single-member districts in "certain areas." Thompson also noted that he was waiting for proposals from the redistricting committee before he took a public position on the issue. House Majority Leader and Chair of the House Redistricting Committee Brent Boggs (D) suggested that while an increase in single-member districts was very likely, a complete change would be difficult. Boggs had reiterated this concern and further downplayed the possibility of single-member districts, suggesting that downsizing larger multi-member districts was a more realistic goal.
GOP files FOIA requests
The Republican party, a minority in the state house and senate, had filed several Freedom of Information Act requests concerning the redistricting process. Specifically, the party was seeking drafts of legislation/maps, communication (written or electronic) between the senate president and house speaker and the redistricting office, and drafts of single-member district proposals from the past ten years. Party Chairman Mike Stuart claimed the process had not done enough to include the public and would have benefited from public hearings. Census 2000 redistricting maps were only available four hours before the votes to approve them. Stuart further voiced his support for single-member districts.
Legislators produced draft maps
On July 19, 2011, members of the West Virginia House of Delegates submitted a range of legislative redistricting proposals. The plans represented the first round of drafts maps submitted for consideration. The plans reinforced the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats on the future of West Virginia's multi-member districts. One notable area of disagreement in the plans was Monongalia County. Since the last census, it had grown enough to warrant a fifth legislative seat. The question for legislators was whether to further expand the existing multi-member district by adding another seat or make the new seat its own district. Expanding the district would be a setback for smaller or single-member districts. However, making the seat its own district would have split the county. This sort of trade-off promised to shape the final map as legislators balanced the disparate aims of single and multi-member districts.
House of Delegates plan got committee approval
On August 2, 2011, the House Redistricting Committee approved a proposal for House of Delegates districts. The bill, which moved to the full House, increased the number of single-member districts around the state from 36 to 47. However, an amendment to make all the districts single-member lost a floor vote, 39-61. A final House vote was expected August 5, 2011.
- A draft of the House plan can be found here.
Senate plan passed by State Senate
On August 3, 2011, the West Virginia State Senate passed a proposed Senate plan, 28-4. Three Democrats and one Republican opposed the plan. The plan largely preserved county lines and existing districts. The plan now moved to the West Virginia House of Delegates.
- A copy of the Senate plan can be found here.
Redistricting plans approved by legislature
On August 5, 2011, the House of Delegates gave final approval to its redistricting plan, 64-33, receiving Senate concurrence the same day. The House also concurred with a State Senate plan passed earlier in the week, giving its approval 82-13. The plan now moved to acting Governor Ray Tomblin (D).
The House plan increased the number of single-member districts around the state from 36 to 47. The plan would also break up the seven-member District 30, splitting it into three and four member districts. The five-member 27th District was also split, but the 44th District was expanded to five. Unsatisfied with the partial shift toward single-member districts, opponents of the plan were considering a lawsuit challenging the maps. According to reports, the West Virginia Republican Party, 2008 Congressional primary candidate Thornton Cooper (D), and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce were all mulling lawsuits. Chamber President Steve Roberts argued that the plan "fails to provide an equitable distribution of legislative seats throughout the state." In addition, Delegate Gary Howell (R) had asked the Governor to veto the map over the splitting of the town of Peidmont. The Senate plan faced less controversy and largely preserved county lines and existing districts.
Veto expected on House redistricting plan
According to reports, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) would veto House of Delegates redistricting plan. As of August 11, 2011, the final bill had yet to be transmitted to the Governor. Nevertheless, officials in governor's office said that enough errors had already been discovered in the bill to justify the veto. Republicans and other critics of the House plan argued that the technical errors were the result of an unnecessarily rushed political process. Majority Leader Brent Boggs (D) contended that the errors were the result of legislative amendments rather than poor planning on the part of the Redistricting Committee.
House plan vetoed, session called
On August 17, 2011, acting-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin officially vetoed the House redistricting plan and called another special session, beginning August 18, 2011, to correct technical errors in the bill. Opponents of the plan, however, asked legislators to start from scratch. Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, argued that the House should scrap the bill and redraw the map to include 100 single-member districts. Estimates suggested that the special session could have cost taxpayers over $30,000 per day.
Second session began, Senate redistricting signed
The special session for adjusting West Virginia's vetoed House redistricting plans began on Thursday, August 18, 2011. Delegates planned to give the maps final approval on Saturday, and the Senate planned to ok the maps on Sunday. There had been some controversy about whether to re-redraw the seven-member 30th District, but it appeared that the House would focus on correcting technical errors in the bill. In addition, acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the State Senate plan on August 18.
Legislature approved revised House plan
On Sunday, August 21, 2011 the West Virginia State Legislature approved revisions to the vetoed House of Delegates redistricting plans. Republicans attempted a number of amendments, from creating 100 single-member district to giving Mason County its own delegate, but all their amendments were rejected. House Republicans also called for a public hearing on the revisions, but this suggestion was also rejected. Ultimately, the revised bill made tweaks to almost half of chamber's districts, including shifting a seat between districts in Raleigh County. Despite the changes, many local interests remained upset. On August 20, 2011 the House passed the revised plan 55-38, while the Senate passed the bill the following day by a narrow 15-14 margin. Notably, Senate Republicans also tried (and failed) to revise Mason County, arguing that the county had been promised its own delegate. The bill, House Bill 201, now moved to acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
- The revised map can be found here.
Governor signed revised plan
On Friday, September 2, 2011, acting-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed the revised map for the state's House of Delegates districts. Republicans criticized the decision, arguing that Tomblin had failed to take the lead on creating 100 single-member districts. In addition, Brooke County officials had suggested that the bill contained lingering technical errors. Tomblin, however, defended the legislature's lead role in redistricting and noted that the technical flaws he had seen in the first map had been corrected.
Putnam, Hurricane, Chamber threaten lawsuits
Putnam County, the City of Hurricane, and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce considered lawsuits over West Virginia redistricting. Putnam County seemed the most committed to litigation. Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes had said the county will either file or join a lawsuit against the plan. County officials were concerned that the new House of Delegates districts decreased their representation. The city of Hurricane also considered a lawsuit. Its mayor, Scott Edwards, argued "It's wrong. The way it's done is absolutely wrong." The city was drawn into a district with southern counties that Hurricane officials contend shared little with the city.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce expressed broader concerns. The group had been a vocal advocate for single members districts and a vocal critic of the House redistricting process. Referring to the decision to reduce rather than eliminate multi-member districts, Chamber President Steve Roberts stated, "I think it might be fair to say that this was a session in which we took two steps back and maybe one step forward." He added that the chamber was investigating the redistricting plans to see if any voters had been inequitably treated.
Whatever lawsuits were ultimately filed, election law experts had identified a few key issues likely to take center stage. One contentious question was whether multi-member districts disadvantaged certain voters in violation of the "one person, one vote" principle. In addition, counties could have argued that the legislature should not be permitted to divide counties large enough to have their own legislative districts. Disputes could also have risen over minority districts.
Putnam votes to sue, Mason and Raleigh considered
On August 23, Putnam County Commissioners voted 2-1 to challenge the state's legislative redistricting plan. Although the county could have accommodated three of its own house districts, the new plan divided Putnam between five districts with only one wholly contained within its boundaries. Opponents of the plan argued that Putnam should be guaranteed more than one local representative. However, supporters observed that three of the five delegates would likely be Putnam residents anyway.
Mason County, which could have justified a single delegate district, remained divided between two districts. A Mason resident had not been elected to the house in recent memory. County officials had stated that they were considering joining the Putnam suit.
Raleigh County also considered either joining the suit or filing its own. County Commission President John Aliff had reportedly asked the county attorney to investigate the suit being prepared by Putnam. Aliff stated, "We need to look to see if, in fact, we are going to contemplate a lawsuit... would we be better doing it as an individual county, or with another county? Those things would have to be looked at." Raleigh, like Putnam and Mason, was concerned about being divided among neighboring districts.
Monroe in, Raleigh out
On September 8, Monroe County announced that the county would challenge the House of Delegates redistricting plan. Under the plan, nearly all of Monroe was part of a two-member district including parts of Summers and Raleigh counties. Monroe had a smaller population in the district than either of the other two counties. The rest of Monroe county would have been paired with Greenbrier county. Given that the county was at a population disadvantage in both districts, Monroe officials argued that it would have difficulty electing its own representative. Raleigh county also considered a challenge, but announced later that it would not pursue the suit.
FOIA request denied
On September 2, the West Virginia State Legislature denied a Freedom of Information Act request for internal redistricting communications. The request was filed by the West Virginia Republican Party. Legislative officials argued that the state’s FOIA law specifically exempted communications of that kind.
- Both the request and denial letters can be found here.
Republican FOIA request goes court
On September 2, the West Virginia State Legislature denied the state GOP's Freedom of Information Act request for internal redistricting communications. Party leaders had called the 2011 redistricting process "a fiasco" and called the denial a "cover-up." Legislative officials argued that the state’s FOIA law specifically exempted communications of that kind.
On Monday, September 19, the West Virginia Republican Party announced that it planned to challenge the denial in court. The GOP also asked the state to preserve all the relevant records relating to redistricting, advising the state of its "obligation" to preserve such records.
- The FOIA request and denial can be found here.
- The GOP lawsuit press release can be found here.
Putnam issues notice of legal action, Mason in
On September 13, Putnam County issued a notice of pending legal action against West Virginia's house redistricting plan. Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes argued, "If this isn't gerrymandering, then they need to take that word out of the dictionary." Putnam county was divided among five house districts with only one fully contained within the county. By itself, the county warranted three house districts. Mason county would also join the suit, arguing that it deserved its own house district. According to Andes, five to six other counties were considering joining the suit.
Cooper and three others file notice
Four notices of legal action were given concerning the House of Delegates redistricting plan. These four lawsuits were planned by attorney Thornton Cooper of Kanawha County as well as by county officials in Monroe, Putnam, and Mason counties. Stephen Skinner, an attorney from Jefferson County, was still considering a lawsuit over the congressional plans.
Cooper first to file suit
On October 13, attorney and former congressional candidate Thornton Cooper filed the first lawsuit against West Virginia’s House redistricting plan. Cooper contended that the map violated the West Virginia Constitution by failing to provide equal representation. He suggested that the court should overturn the map and order the legislature to draw a constitutional map by the end of the year. If the deadline was not met, argued Cooper, the court should impose his own map, which contained 100 single-member districts. Several lawsuits were still expected against the House plan.
Monongalia residents join Cooper
On October 27, former legislator Frank Deem and several Monongalia residents petitioned to join Thornton Cooper’s challenge of the House redistricting plan. However, unlike Cooper, Deem and the other intervenors sought to challenge the West Virginia State Senate plan. They argued that if multi-member House districts were unconstitutional, then any Senate districts formed around those districts were unconstitutional. In addition, they argued that the Senate districts did not keep with the state constitutional requirement that districts be “compact, formed of contiguous territory, bounded by county lines, and, as nearly as practicable, equal in population.” Their challenge centered on the division of Monongalia County into three Senate districts.
County officials face uncertain districts
County election officials in West Virginia were in a bind as the state’s redistricting plans faced legal challenges. With one lawsuit filed and several more expected, the state’s House of Delegates districts, and possibly its congressional districts, were open to court-mandated revisions. State officials did not plan to dictate how and when county election officials implemented the new plans, but either option (waiting for possible changes or acting immediately and changing as needed) could have created confusion among voters. In addition, making changes twice could have cost counties significant amounts of money.
Putnam and Mason counties file suit
On October 21, Putnam and Mason Counties formally filed suit against the House of Delegates redistricting plan in the West Virginia Supreme Court. Both counties maintained that their populations justified additional dedicated representatives.
House Speaker seeks to intervene in defense of maps
House Speaker Rick Thompson (D) asked to intervened as a defendant in the two redistricting cases before the West Virginia Supreme Court. Thompson argued that court involvement in redistricting was a significant breach of the separation of powers. Thompson described the redistricting process as a "purely legislative task." Some speculated that Thompson decided to intervene because Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (named as a defendant in the lawsuits) was privately sympathetic to the challenges.
Four more lawsuits filed
In total, five lawsuits were pending against West Virginia's legislative maps. The State Supreme Court had asked state officials to present arguments in defense of the legislative redistricting plans on November 17.
The Jefferson County Commission voted unanimously to challenge the state’s congressional redistricting map in federal court, specifically targeting the new 2nd District. Attorney Stephen Skinner, who prepared the lawsuit, filed his complaint on November 4. The complaint argued that the exclusion of Hampshire or Mineral counties diluted representation in the Eastern Panhandle by splitting it into two districts. The complaint also argued that District 2 does not meet the state constitution’s compactness requirement. Several commission members joined the lawsuit as private individuals.
Monroe County also officially filed its redistricting challenge on November 4, seeking to overturn the new House of Delegates redistricting plan. Under the plan, Monroe was divided into two districts. Given that the county was at a population disadvantage in both districts, Monroe officials argued that it would have difficulty electing its own representative.
Monongalia and Wood Counties, Thornton Cooper
Several Monongalia and Wood County residents (including Frank Deem) also officially filed suit on November 4, challenging West Virginia’s State Senate redistricting plan. In addition, Thornton Cooper, who was also challenging the State House maps, filed a separate petition against the Senate plan. The complaints argued that several new districts exceeded population targets and unnecessarily divided counties. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant responded to the petition and reinforced her commitment, despite personal reservations, to defend the maps. House Speaker Richard Thompson also intervened in defense of the maps. Tennant’s response can be found here.
WV Supreme Court hears arguments
On November 17, the West Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments from several groups challenging the state’s legislative redistricting plans. According to reports, the court seemed cautious about usurping the prerogative of legislators. Attorneys for the state argued that several US Supreme Court rulings supported the legislature’s approach. Justice Thomas E. McHugh acknowledged that lawmakers had considerable leeway in designing maps. However, the plaintiffs argued that the West Virginia Constitution mandates compacted districts and the preservation of county lines. This, they argued, must be the baseline from which legislators entertained other considerations.
WV Supreme Court upholds redistricting maps
On November 23, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the state's new legislative districts, denying the five lawsuits filed against the plans. While the court did not immediately issue an opinion explaining its decision, the court had shown hesitance in interfering with the legislative redistricting process. Plaintiff Thornton Cooper said the ruling was evidence that a constitutional amendment was necessary to take the process out of the hands of state lawmakers.
State GOP Chair Mike Stuart flatly disagreed with the ruling, but noted that the decision only upheld the plans with respect to the State Constitution. Stuart predicted that a federal case would ultimately challenge the maps. In fact, the Putnam County Commission, one of the plaintiffs, was reportedly considering a federal challenge.
Full opinion released
On February 13, the West Virginia Supreme Court released it full opinion upholding the state's redistricting maps. The decision was handed down in late November. The majority opinion argued that the court may only assess whether the maps satisfied constitutional requirements, not whether those maps were the best way of satisfying said requirements.
- The full opinion can be found here.
Federal case moved forward
Despite the State Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the new legislative plans, the Jefferson County lawsuit against the state's congressional districts moved forward. On November 30, a three-judge panel, including one Circuit Court judge and two District Court judges, was assigned to the case. Thorton Cooper was also allowed to intervene as a plaintiff in the case. Jefferson County argued that the plan violated the "one person, one vote" principle. Further, the county argued that the exclusion of Hampshire or Mineral counties from District 2 diluted representation in the Eastern Panhandle by splitting it into two districts. The county also maintained that District 2 was not sufficiently compact.
Both sides in the federal redistricting case filed briefs the week of December 18. The Jefferson County Commission was responsible for the suit and argued that the new 2nd District violated compactness requirements and contained too many residents. Attorneys for the state argued that the plan, known as the "Mason County flip" because it only moved Mason County, was able to preserve county lines and avoid incumbent matchups without significant changes. Notably, Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D) had voiced opposition to the congressional maps and agreed with the plaintiffs that they diluted the Eastern Panhandle.
Panel set date for argument
The federal panel hearing a challenge to the state's congressional districts had scheduled arguments in the case for December 27, 2011.
Panel rules map unconstitutional
On Tuesday, January 3, a three-judge panel ruled West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan unconstitutional due to its unequal distribution of population among the state’s three districts. The court gave the West Virginia Legislature until January 17 to come up with a new map -- otherwise, the panel would redraw the map. The state planed to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court and was seeking a stay on the decision. If granted, the stay could have given legislators more time to revise their maps even if the panel's ruling was not overturned on appeal.
- The decision in the case can be found here.
After the state's new congressional map was struck down by a panel of federal judges, the judicial panel agreed to remove the January 17 deadline for the West Virginia Legislature to revise its maps. The panel's January 10 decision would also allow the state to change its candidate filing deadlines to accommodate the revision process. The state had asked for a stay of the decision while it pursued an appeal with the US Supreme Court, but its motion was denied.
US Supreme Court upholds map
On Friday, January 20, the US Supreme Court stayed a lower court's ruling requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional redistricting map. The order suggested that the court would be sympathetic to the state's defense in a full appeal. The order also allowed the state to move forward with the new maps for the 2012 elections. Prior to the ruling, several alternative plans had been considered in the state legislature.
The state had until March 27 to file a brief with the Supreme Court or seek an extension on the stay. On March 27, the state filed a brief asking the court to hear the case. If the case did not go before the court, the lower court's ruling would have taken effect, and the maps would be redrawn.
On September 25, 2012, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower federal court, upholding the new congressional districts as constitutional. In their eight-page ruling the Supreme Court stated somewhat unequal districts were permissible as the Legislature legitimately sought to avoid drawing incumbents into the same district while keeping counties intact.
Citizen redistricting committee
Prior to the passage of the House redistricting bill, Del. Patrick Lane (R) attempted to add an amendment that would have created a citizen redistricting committee. However, Speaker Richard Thompson (D) ruled that the addition was not pertinent to the bill.
Unger backed reform study
Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D) proposed a bill instructing the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the possibility of creating an independent redistricting commission. The bill was known as SCR 69--the text and bill history can be found here. Sen. Unger was an opponent of the congressional plan overturned by a panel of federal judges.
Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred said that redistricting plans should be ready no later than January 2012 to allow for the state's May primary election. House Speaker Rick Thompson said that he expected the redistricting session to begin in August or September. Several County Clerks argued that redistricting should be completed by Labor Day to allow counties to move polling places and redraw precinct lines. On July 26, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin officially called a special session for August 1.
Deviation from "Ideal Districts"
|2000 Population Deviation|
|State House Districts||9.98%|
|State Senate Districts||10.92%|
|Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.|
- State Legislative and Congressional Redistricting after the 2010 Census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
- Cumberland Times-News, "2010 Census shows population growth in West Virginia," December 22, 2010
- The Journal, "Redistricting likely to be done in summer," January 6, 2011
- West Virginia Legislature Newsletter, Wrap-Up, "Census, Redistricting Office, Ensure Equal Representation in Government," February 10, 2010
- The Charleston Gazette, "Redistricting special session might start Aug. 1," June 16, 2011
- Watchdog.org, "WV Senate President Issues Call for Redistricting Special Session Aug. 1," July 27, 2011
- WOWKTV, "W.Va. Senate Forms Redistricting Task Force," April 1, 2011
- The Intelligencer, "Redistricting Committee Convenes," June 15, 2011
- The Journal, "House should follow the Senate on redistricting," May 17, 2011
- The Journal, "Criticism of Doyle and Lawrence is unwarranted," May 18, 2011
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