Southern West Virginia counties see impact of redistricting

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FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — Redistricting only happens once every ten years, and for the first time in decades, West Virginia saw significant changes.

The Mountain State lost 59,278 residents between 2010-2020, and a consistent decline in population led to the loss of a seat in the House of Representatives, shifting how the interests of West Virginians will be represented in Congress.

“One fewer person will have a little less representation on committees in Congress, which is really where a lot of the work in Congress gets done,” Andrea Kent, Associate Professor of Political Science at WVU Tech, said. “So, having one less body to be able to spread to all of those committees will make a difference to how much West Virginia voices are being heard.”

On a statewide level, the West Virginia Legislature made significant changes in how and where statewide representatives can run for office and who they represent.

For the first time in West Virginia’s history, the State legislature and Governor Jim Justice approved 100 single member delegate districts for the House of Delegates as a result of a law passed in 2018. Prior to the new map, there were 67 delegate districts.

Those new lines required some local counties to begin the long process of re-evaluating their voting precincts and magisterial districts.

In Summers County, the next steps include a public hearing and approval by the county commission.

In Fayette County, the County Commission needs to approve new maps that will cause significant changes for parts of Fayetteville and Oak Hill, including the addition of new voting precincts. There are certain rules public officials need to follow when designing new maps, which can present certain challenges in an already complicated redistricting process, especially when the lines drawn shape the future of local elections.

“We have to make sure we are trying to get as close to the same number of people in each district as we can for our magisterial districts,” Fayette County Clerk, Michelle Holly said. “It actually deals with who can run for county commission and boards of education races.”

By law, there cannot be more than a 10% difference in population and territory in magisterial districts. As of November 10, the county has five proposed maps with a percent difference between 1.75-9.56%.

As for what is next, the Fayette County Commission will hold a final vote on the proposed maps on November 17. Public opinion and suggestions for new maps will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. November 15.

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