West Virginia redistricting lawsuit leaves U.S. courts

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January 31, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert King removed the remainder of a case brought against the new West Virginia congressional maps from the U.S. federal court system, clearing the way for plaintiffs to bring the suit to the state courts.[1] The case had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the decision back to a lower court with an unsigned opinion approving of the maps.[2]

The lawsuit was originally brought by the Jefferson County Commission, claiming the new districts had too much population variance and violated the United States Constitution.[3] During the redistricting process, lawmakers simply shifted Mason County from the 2nd Congressional District into the 3rd Congressional District.[1] The Jefferson County Commission argued that the population variance between these districts was too great, but the state argued that the variance was acceptable and accounted for communities of interest by avoiding splitting counties.[4]

Although the federal court system determined that the new districts do not violate the United States Constitution, the state courts will need to decide whether the districts comply with the West Virginia Constitution's requirement that districts be compact. The 2nd Congressional District snakes across the state from the eastern panhandle to the Ohio River in the west.[1]

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