WVLEG: State Senate Opens Up Redistricting Process

By westvirginia on April 18, 2011
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By Steven Allen Adams
steven@westvirginiawatchdog.org

For first time ever the redistricting process for West Virginia’s state Senate and House of Delegates districts will face greater scrutiny – a fact lawmakers are aware of and preparing for.

In March West Virginia received its U.S. Census results for 2010. According to the results, West Virginia’s population grew by 2.5 percent, or 44,650 people, with most of the growth in the north and Eastern Panhandle. Last month Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, created the Senate Redistricting Task Force, made up of one senator from each of the state’s 17 senatorial districts.

“The bi-partisan, geographically diverse Task Force will be holding meetings around the State gathering information to determine what did or didn’t work well during the last redistricting cycle,” Kessler said in a news release March 31. “The Task Force will also make recommendations to the Senate.”

Heading up the task force is state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, whose home county grew by 28,264 people between 2000 and 2010. Other task force members are: Ron Stollings, D-Boone, vice chair; Clark Barnes, R-Randolph; Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Richard Browning, D-Wyoming; Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel; Doug Facemire, D-Braxton; John Pat Fanning, D-McDowell; Dan Foster, D-Kanawha; Mike Hall, R-Putnam; Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio; William Laird, D-Fayette; Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier; Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha; Robert Plymale, D-Wayne; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; and Bob Williams, D-Taylor.

“It is an honor to chair this very important group,” Unger said. “As chairman, I intend to make the redistricting process transparent and include the citizens of every region in redrawing the State’s district boundaries.”

As part of this transparency, the task force scheduled several informational meetings around the state to update citizens on the redistricting process. The first two are 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4th, at the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, W.Va; and 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 11th, at the Ohio County Courthouse in Wheeling, W.Va.

“These meetings will allow the public to inform us in person about how they think their districts should be arranged,” Unger said. “We want to provide a forum for the public and local officials to express their concerns and make this process as open and transparent as possible.”

The other meetings are:

  • Wednesday, May 18, in Charleston, W.Va.
  • Saturday, May 21, in Fairmont, W.Va.
  • Wednesday, May 25, in Williamson, W.Va.
  • Wednesday, June 1, in Beckley, W.Va.
  • Wednesday, June 8, in Chapmanville, W.Va.
  • Saturday, June 11, in Huntington, W.Va.
  • Wednesday, June 15, in Parkersburg, W.Va.
  • Saturday, June 25, in Buckhannon, W.Va.

Monday, Unger announced the creation of a website dedicated to publishing redistricting information. The site includes more information about the informational meetings, press releases, U.S. Census data, and links to news stories and resources to help citizens understand redistricting. The site can be found at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/redistricting.cfm?.

“We developed this site so that the public would have a place to go to stay informed about and engaged in the redistricting process,” Unger said. “The public can post comments relevant to their districts, so that we have the input we need to make an informed decision. I believe this site will aid the Task Force in providing the openness and transparency that the citizens of West Virginia deserve and aid the citizens in keeping West Virginia a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The Legislature is aided in the redistricting process by the West Virginia Legislative Redistricting Office. The Redistricting Office works with the Legislature to draw new boundaries for state Senate, House of Delegates, and Congressional districts. Once the boundaries are approved and a redistricting bill is passed by the Legislature during special session, the Redistricting Office sends the new maps and data to the counties, which changes magisterial districts and voting precincts.

According to the Rose Institute of State and Local Government and Stateline, West Virginia is one of 39 states where the redistricting process is controlled by a political party. Democrats control the process in West Virginia and seven other states. Republicans control the process in 20 states, while both parties share control in nine states. A bipartisan commission controls redistricting in 11 states, while in Iowa legislative staffers control the process.

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Posted under Elections, Federal, Legislation, Legislature, News, Politics, State Senate, Transparency, West Virginia.
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