House approves 100 single-district realignment; measure now goes to Senate

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
The House of Delegates' plan for 100 single-delegate districts was passed this week and now goes to the Senate for debate.

CHARLESTON — Saying the House of Delegates’ proposed realignment of districts in the state is representative of a population shift in addition to population loss, Del. Gary Howell said the House Redistricting Committee has “taken great care” in developing a plan which moves the state to 100 single-member House of Delegates districts.

Howell, along with Sen. Charles Trump, co-chairs the Joint Committee on Redistricting.

He said this is the first time in West Virginia’s 158-year history that members of the Republican-led West Virginia House of Delegates adopted a measure that would establish 100 single-member delegate districts through the process of decennial redistricting.

House Bill 301 was adopted Oct. 13 by a bipartisan vote of 79 to 20, with one delegate absent, according to the communications director for the House.

The measure now goes to the Senate for debate.

“The Joint Committee on Redistricting worked very hard all summer and fall to craft a plan that will give every West Virginian an equal voice in the House of Delegates,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

“This plan will result in representation in the House that is both more uniform and more equitable for every citizen of the state.”

This map shows the current configuration for West Virginia's delegate districts.

Members of the Joint Committee on Redistricting spent the summer months conducting 16 public hearings throughout the state, both in-person and virtually, collecting public feedback about how the 100 single-member districts should be drawn.

One of those hearings was held Aug. 18 in Keyser, but saw few members of the public attending.

A 2018 law requires single-member districts be established this year, a change from the current 67 districts. Lawmakers continue to work on adopting a bill that would create two U.S. Congressional districts.

“We are dealing with population loss, but we’ve also had population shifts, and those facts are both reflected in the maps you saw today,” Howell said.

“We’ve taken great care to keep counties and municipalities whole as much as possible where it’s been requested, and you’ll see a few instances when the opposite was asked of us.

“We’ve also tried to be mindful of communities of interest as much as possible, and those are considered to be groups of any size with similar interests, concerns and values.”

The current 100 delegates come from 67 districts, with 22 members elected from 11 two-member districts; 18 legislators elected from six three-member districts; eight legislators elected from two four-member districts; and five legislators elected from a five-member district.

Howell’s current district remains solely in Mineral County, although it does not include all of Mineral County. Other portions are represented by Del. Ruth Rowan and Del. John Paul Hott.

Liz Beavers is a veteran writer and managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune. To reach out to her with a story idea, email lbeavers@newstribune.info.