BLUEFIELD, WV (WVNS) — Every ten years, the Constitution requires states to re-district, based on the latest census data. 2022 will bring big changes to West Virginia legislation.
Because of declining state population, the landscape of West Virginia legislation could look very different in two years. West Virginia will lose a congressional seat, leaving the state with only two representatives in the U.S House.
“Well you have to divide the state into two, so it is either north/south or east/west,” said Delegate Doug Smith of the 27th District, (R).
Another change on the table is taking the 67 state house districts, each with multiple delegates, and turning them into 100 single delegate districts. West Virginia is one of the last few states to adopt this model, and after more than a decade of consideration, the idea has enough support in the mountain state.
“I think this is a great thing for West Virginia. It is one person, one vote, and it is fair for everybody and you have a better representation for the people,” said Smith.
Delegate Marty Gearhart said this change creates a more accessible and accountable delegate, as each delegate will represent around 18,000 people.
“It changes everything, whereas, here before, people in Mercer County had three delegates to search and find information from. Now, there will be a smaller number of people searching for a single delegate,” said Gearhart (R), also from the 27th district.
Smith said it will more accurately depict the composition of our state’s population, and create more dedicated delegates.
“Make it more competitive and better competition, and just like in business, better competition makes a better product,” said Smith.
But Gearhart knows there are those who are opposed to the redistrict. Town halls continue to be conducted across the state, composed of state lawmakers and community members who get the chance to give their opinion before the lines are drawn.
“All of that will be part of what the committee considers, when the time comes to actually draw the lines,” said Gearhart.