West Virginia's Redistricting News
Associated Press: "High court passes on redistricting case." June 25,
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to consider West Virginia's state redistricting plan means Eastern Panhandle residents will remain under- represented in the Legislature until after the 2010 census, says a lawyer who challenged the plan.
Without comment, the justices on Monday upheld a lower federal court's ruling that said the plan was the best compromise in a complex process of adjusting House and Senate districts experiencing population swings with as little disruption as possible.
Several legislators and residents sued last September arguing the redistricting plan traded the right of equal representation in growing Eastern Panhandle counties for the status quo of political dominance in shrinking Kanawha County.
The Legislature is required to adjust state House and Senate districts every 10 years based on the latest census figures.
Kanawha County was allowed to keep its four state senators even though its population dropped by 4 percent between the 1990 and 2000 census.
In the Eastern Panhandle, Berkeley County grew by 28 percent; Jefferson, 17 percent and Morgan, 23 percent. The area did not receive additional representation in the 34-member Senate.
Legislators who hope to avoid the turmoil and politics of legislative redistricting 10 years from now plan to introduce bills next week to create an independent, bipartisan redistricting panel.
The bills, expected to be sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and Jon Blair Hunter, D-Monongalia; and in the House by Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Morgan, would create a five-member advisory committee that would take first crack at redrawing Senate, House and congressional districts.
"I think we need to do something to improve the process, and take out some of the politics and the pain," said Hunter.
Hunter experienced the pain firsthand during the September special session, when his senatorial district was significantly altered, over his objections.
"After going through the pain and suffering of the redistricting special session, I thought we needed a better way," he said.
The bill would create a five-member panel, with one member each appointed by the House speaker, Senate president, House and Senate minority leaders, and a representative of the state Election Commission.
The panel would work out proposals for redrawing the districts. After a public comment period, legislators would use those proposals as the base for redrawing maps.
Legislators could still alter the maps for political or personal benefit, but would be in a position of having to defend changes to the bipartisan plan.
"You could hold legislators accountable," said Unger, who first proposed creating the panel shortly after the redistricting special session.
He and Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, challenged the constitutionality of the Senate redistricting plan in federal court, but a three-judge panel upheld it. A decision on whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will be made in February, Unger said.
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, said last fall he did not believe any major changes are needed in the redistricting process.
The Legislature is required to redraw the districts every 10 years to conform to population changes reflected in the Census.
Mason County commissioners have filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court seeking to have the House of Delegates' redistricting plan declared unconstitutional because the county wasn't given its own representative.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, named Secretary of State Joe Manchin as the respondent because he is responsible for various functions involving elections. Candidates running for the Legislature file in his office from Jan. 14 through Jan. 26.
Commissioners Rick Handley, Phyllis Arthur, and Bob Baird are asking the court to prohibit Manchin from performing his official functions in connection with the filing of candidacy papers for people running for the House of Delegates.
Under the House redistricting plan passed by the Legislature last year, Mason County was divided into two delegate districts, the 13th and 14th. Each district has two delegates, all of them from Putnam County.
Putnam County has 18,936 people in the 13th along with 12,117 from Mason County, and a small number from Jackson County. In the 14th district, Putnam County has 22,804 residents and Mason County has 13,840.
In the 2000 census, Mason County had a population of 25,957, which the lawsuit said "greatly exceeds" the number of residents necessary for the county to have its own delegate. The ideal population for a delegate was 18,080.
A provision in the state constitution says every county containing a population of less than three-fifths of the ratio of representation is to be attached to another county or counties to form a district.
The lawsuit said "the clear import" of the constitutional provision and case law interpreting that provision "is that Mason County ... is entitled to its own delegate to serve in the House of Delegates."
The commissioners asked the Supreme Court to expedite the court proceedings because the filing period concludes Jan. 26.
Delegates from the two districts have recommended different plans to give Mason County its own district if the House of Delegates revisits the issue.
House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, has said he is willing to look at the issue if the delegates can reach a consensus, but that hasn't occurred.
Kiss also said he believed a legal challenge could be defended because the language in the state constitution predated federal case law on equal representation.
The U.S. Constitution's one-man-one-vote mandate and federal case law supersede the state constitution, Kiss said earlier this week.
Under the Supreme Court's usual procedure, Manchin would be asked to respond, and then the case would be presented to the high court to decide whether it wants to hear arguments in the lawsuit.
The two Putnam County Democratic delegates in the 13th Delegate District proposed a redistricting plan Monday, which would make Mason County a single-member district and eliminate one of the two Republican delegates in the 14th District.
Currently, Putnam County and different parts of Mason County make up the 13th and 14th Districts. Each of those districts has more Putnam County residents than Mason County residents.
Under the plan proposed by Delegates Dale Martin and Brady Paxton, both D-Putnam, a new single-delegate district would be created. The district, the 59th District, would have 15,840 people in Mason County and 3,823 from Putnam County.
The 14th District would lose one of its delegates. Both of the delegates from the 14th District, Mike Hall and Lisa Smith, are Republicans.
Mason County officials have complained that the House's redistricting plan gives their county no direct representation, and that counties in Southern West Virginia have held on to their delegates, despite losing population, at Mason County's expense.
House Minority Leader Charles Trump IV, R-Morgan, questioned why Martin's plan would reduce Putnam County, which has gained population, from four to three delegates. Trump said Logan County, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, was guaranteed three delegates when its population was basically only adequate for two delegates.
"I don't know why the Democrats are against fair representation for Mason and Putnam," Trump said. Mason also gained population in the 2000 Census.
Logan County is in the four-member 19th district with Lincoln County and part of Boone County, but the statute is written so that one of the four delegates has to come from Lincoln County.
In the redistricting plan, Putnam County had to give up 8,000 people, mostly in the Hurricane area, to boost the 19th District's population to accommodate four delegates.
When the House plan was being worked on during a special session last fall, Trump tried unsuccessfully to give Mason County its own delegate.
Hall, one of the 14th District delegates, said during a floor session in the House last week that he was drafting a bill to give Mason County its own delegate. His plan was the same one Trump presented to the Redistricting Committee last year.
Hall's announcement came after Mason County Commission President Rick Handley said the commission planned to challenge the House's redistricting plan in the state Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Handley said the Mason County commissioners were asking residents to call the four delegates in the 13th and 14th districts to tell them that Mason wanted its own delegate district.
Under Martin's proposal, Hall's residence would be in the new Mason County district. Martin said Smith wouldn't be affected by the single-member 14th district that he proposed.
If the House approved Martin's plan, Hall said he wouldn't run for the seat in the new district. Hall told his colleagues during Monday's floor session that his house would be in the far lower end of the district for Mason County. Hall said Mason County should have its own delegate.
House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, reiterated Monday if there's a consensus he would revisit the redistricting plan that was passed last fall. He said it didn't appear that a consensus existed.
"I'm not uncomfortable with the [current] plan," Kiss said after the floor session.
Opponents of the Senate redistricting plan told a three-judge federal panel in Charleston Thursday that legislators diluted the votes of 779,000 West Virginians in order to preserve the 8th and 17th senatorial districts in Kanawha County.
Attorneys for the Legislature argued that, while the plan exceeds the 10 percent threshold for variance from the one man-one vote mandate, lawmakers had legitimate, rational reasons to do so.
"The case comes down to whether there was a rational basis for taking a different approach in Kanawha County," West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress told the court. Bastress, representing the Senate, said there are several reasons.
One alternative, combining one district with either Clay or Roane counties would have created an even greater disparity. Because no county can elect more than one senator in a multi-county district, 12,000 people in Clay County or 15,000 in Roane County would objectively be selecting a senator to represent more than 200,000 people in Kanawha County, he said.
"Clay County and Kanawha County may both be great places to live, but they're clearly different places to live," said Bastress, suggesting that voters in the two counties would have few common interests.
District Judge W. Craig Broadwater asked whether the same argument applied to someone living in the southern half of Berkeley County, part of a proposed senatorial district that stretches south through Pocahontas County.
Bastress agreed, but said that's simply a reality of life in the Eastern Panhandle, because there is no direction to go to pick up the population needed for a senatorial district except into the sparsely populated Potomac Highlands region.
"It's just one of the problems redistricting West Virginia: You've got this crazy shape, with mountains popping up all over the state," Bastress said.
Larry Schultz, one of the attorneys for the redistricting opponents, said lawmakers contend it was impossible to deal with the Eastern Panhandle any other way, but never considered alternatives.
He said they could have superimposed districts or created a new, 18th senatorial district to make the plan more equitable. Schultz noted that the state constitution requires a minimum of 12 two-member senate districts, but allows the Legislature to expand the House or Senate, as has occurred several times.
He disputed the argument that it would be wrong to combine Kanawha with Clay or Roane County, noting that one district was formed by adding about 7,500 Wayne countians to Cabell County.
Bastress said that's true, but the major portion of the Wayne County section of the district is the city of Huntington, which has a commonality with Cabell County.
Larry Hammer, also representing the opponents, disputed arguments by legislative attorneys that Kanawha County has a unique role as the state's center of culture, communications, finance and transportation.
"I don't think I'm going to touch that," he said of the county's claim to be the cultural center. He added, "The arguments that Kanawha County is so special seems to fall of its own weight."
Hammer also disputed an assertion by legislative attorneys that the 2000 Census may have undercounted Kanawha countians.
"I suppose in South Hills, there are hundreds of unlisted Latino domestics," he told the court.
Afterward, Bastress said he is hopeful the court will render a decision within a week. He said it might have been a matter of days, before the court Thursday agreed to consider a motion by the Mason County Commission to overturn the House redistricting plan.
At issue is whether the federal panel has jurisdiction to act on Mason County's argument that it was denied a delegate under a state constitutional provision that says counties are entitled to a delegate if they within four-fifths of the minimum required population for a district.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said he thought both sides had presented their arguments well, even though he said the legislative attorneys "had some challenges defending the policies" as constitutional and rational.
Sen. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, one of the strongest advocates for retaining the Kanawha County districts during redistricting, said the opponents' case amounted to saying the plan "isn't pretty enough."
To contact staff writer Phil Kabler, use e-mail or call 348-1220.
Three federal judges will hear arguments this morning on whether the deal brokered by legislative leaders to redraw the state's legislative districts is too much of a political compromise.
The judges will hold the hearing in Kanawha County, the center of a turf war over the new districts for state senators.
Legislative leaders contend keeping Kanawha County's four senators is justified because of the compelling need to keep districts as intact as possible while adjusting to population changes.
But opponents say the plan went too far, favoring Kanawha County's long-held political influence over the rights of thousands of citizens statewide.
"This legal challenge is to bring all the counties together as equal, including Kanawha," said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, who filed the lawsuit. "That none of us are subordinate, and none of us are a little more equal than others."
After every census, state legislators must come as close as possible to drawing geographical districts that group people with common interests and are equal in population.
"There are all kinds of criteria you have to weigh when drawing a plan," said Tim Storey, a redistricting analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It's really quite a puzzle," Storey said.
Lawmakers do have some flexibility, but not much. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that redistricting plans are generally safe from legal challenge if the size difference between the largest and smallest districts is less than 10 percentage points.
The Senate plan legislators approved in September has a difference of nearly 11 percentage points.
The two overlapping districts in Kanawha County, where population has dipped in recent years, are each about 6 percent short of the ideal size of 106,374 people. Growing districts in the Eastern Panhandle are nearly 5 percent over that goal.
Lawsuits filed by Unger and a group of residents in the Eastern Panhandle, Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, and two Roane County residents were consolidated and sent to federal court in Charleston for today's hearing.
The opponents say the Senate plan puts too few people in Kanawha County's districts and too many in other districts, violating the U.S. Constitution's equal protection provision and the one man-one vote principle.
Unger said a recent Idaho Supreme Court decision that threw out a map with similar population differences is proof his suit has merit. He said opponents want the map redrawn to more adequately reflect population swings so the political power of Kanawha County is more in line with its decline in size.
"It's not just on redistricting," Unger said. "It's a whole political, philosophical mindset that we will go through of how we're going to move forward in the future in West Virginia."
But legislative leaders argue the need to keep as existing district lines intact as possible and have them follow county lines justify the new map, which closely follows previous map districts that haven't been deemed unconstitutional.
The map does chop up 11 of the state's 55 counties into multiple districts, but leaders contend dividing Kanawha would have been much worse than the others because it is so much larger and more urban.
"Not only would it be a case of the tail wagging the dog, but the local interests of a Roane or a Clay County [for example] are very different from those confronting Kanawha County," attorneys for legislative leaders wrote in a response to the lawsuit.
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, said he hopes the judges make a quick decision so county governments can finish their redistricting processes.
"I think that it's going to be good to get it resolved one way or another," Tomblin said.
Sen. John Unger thinks he's being denied some of his rights not only as a state senator but also as a citizen as a result of his lawsuit against the redistricting plan for the Senate.
But Senate attorney Mike Crane said Unger has set himself apart from others by becoming a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Unger, D-Berkeley, is upset because when he tried Tuesday to get copies of the redistricting maps resulting from 1990 and 2000 Census figures, staff workers in the legislative redistricting office told him they were not allowed to give him such information anymore. But Crane said Unger should realize that he now must follow the rules of civil procedure in obtaining any information that could affect the redistricting case.
"In matters of litigation, you have to have management of information," Crane said. That means Unger must go through his attorneys to get information out of the redistricting office now, he said. But Unger thinks Crane is "going overboard" on controlling information.
"I appreciate all that in regard to information that's not available to the public, but I had asked for public documents," Unger said. "My question is: What do they have to hide?"
As an analogy, he said, if someone sued a county commission, that person would still be able to go down to the courthouse and get copies of public documents.
In his case, that's exactly what he intends to do: go to the Berkeley County Courthouse to get copies of the redistricting maps there.
Unger said he understood it was Legislative Manager Aaron Allred who told redistricting office workers not to give him any information, but Allred declined to confirm that. In a written statement, Allred said: "Senator Unger has been informed by legislative counsel that all of his requests dealing with redistricting information need to be made by his attorneys to the Legislature's attorneys."
Unger said that when he returned to his home in Martinsburg Tuesday evening, he found a phone message from one of his attorneys, Larry Schultz, saying he had received a complaint about Unger from the Senate.
Although Unger is the lead plaintiff, several other Eastern Panhandle residents, including Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, have joined him in the lawsuit that contends the Senate redistricting plan violates the constitutional principle of one person, one vote. That suit has been combined with a similar lawsuit filed by Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, and two Roane County residents and another suit from Mason County that challenges the House redistricting plan.
A three-judge federal panel is scheduled to hear the case on Dec. 13.
Unger said Tuesday's incident was the second time he has been denied information from the legislative redistricting office.
The first time was in September, when he and Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, tried to get a copy of what was the final redistricting plan before it went before the Senate Rules Committee.
Writer Jim Wallace can be reached at 348-4819.
Lawyers for state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin have rejected a request to depose him in a federal lawsuit that challenges the Senate's redistricting plan.
But the Senate has agreed to let attorneys representing state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and others who brought the suit in Martinsburg depose three staff people who worked on redistricting plans for both the Senate and the House of Delegates.
Unger's attorneys, David Hammer and Lawrence Schultz of Martinsburg, will depose Jo Vaughan, redistricting analyst; Teresa Bowe, redistricting and demographic analyst; and lawyer Mark White on Monday in Charleston.
The Senate has retained Bob Bastress, a constitutional law professor at West Virginia University, to represent it.
Bastress objected to Tomblin, D-Logan, being deposed, and Tomblin's Senate lawyer, Mike Crane, said, "We've taken the position that legislators should not be made to appear and testify in court."
Hammer and Schultz will have to get a court order to require Tomblin to testify, Crane said.
Hammer said he and Schultz are trying to get the facts behind how the Senate redistricted. "There's a big question mark why they did what they did," he said.
Crane said Unger's attorneys have also requested all written communications between Tomblin and other senators, as well as the executive branch of government and staffs' communications with senators.
There wasn't a lot of written communication, Crane said. "Most was done by word of mouth," he added.
Senators would ask staff to do something a certain way, he explained.
The staffers being deposed, Crane said, are the ones who drew the redistricting maps and provided the population numbers.
Unger's suit and a similar one by state Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, challenge the redistricting plan on the basis that it violates the U.S. Constitution's one-man, one-vote rule.
Deem has claimed the Senate plan exceeds a court-established 10 percent population variance because Kanawha County was allowed to keep four senators when its population fell below the ideal number for each senatorial district.
The case is set for trial on Dec. 13. "We're fully prepared to go to trial and expect to," Hammer said.
Summary judgment pleadings are due by Dec. 6. If there are no material facts in dispute when those are filed, a trial won't be necessary.
To contact staff writer Fanny Seiler, use e-mail or call 348-5198.
A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state Senate's new redistricting plan has been put on a fast-track and a trial has been set for Dec. 13 before a three-judge panel in Charleston.
A court order, entered last Wednesday in U.S. Northern District Court in Martinsburg said the civil action "must be expedited in an effort to avoid delay or disruption to the electoral process in West Virginia."
Judge M. Blane Michael, who will serve with Judges Craig Broadwater of Martinsburg and David Faber of Bluefield on the panel, signed the order. The trial will be in Faber's Charleston courtroom in the Robert C. Byrd courthouse.
Candidates running for office next year have to file in January with the secretary of state. If the redistricting plan is ordered changed, that has to take place prior to January to avoid a disruption of the electoral process.
State Sen. John Unger II, D-Berkeley, and others filed a lawsuit in Martinsburg that claims the redistricting plan fails to meet the federal Constitution's one-man, one-vote requirement.
State Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, also filed a lawsuit in the Southern District Court, alleging the population variance was over the 10 percent permitted by the courts.
David M. Hammer, one of Unger's attorneys, said Monday that Deem's lawsuit was transferred to the Northern District in Martinsburg, but he hasn't received a court order yet that would consolidate the two lawsuits.
Deem's main criticism has been that the Senate plan allowed Kanawha County to keep its four senators when the county lost population and had fewer than the ideal number of 106,374 people for each senatorial district. Kanawha County has two overlapping districts.
"It's equal representation. That's what our lawsuit is about," Unger said. Hammer said each side will present its evidence to the panel of judges. He and Lawrence Schultz, both Martinsburg lawyers, will be the trial attorneys in Unger's case. Deem is represented by David Hanlon, a former state senator.
Michael's court order requires motions for summary judgment to be filed by Dec. 6, and responses by Dec. 11.
"If necessary, a trial on any disputed facts will be held on Dec. 13, 2001, beginning at 9:30 a.m.," the order said. In any event, the order said the court will hear arguments from counsel at that time with respect to the disposition of the case.
In a related matter, the Mason County Commission and others filed a motion to intervene in the federal case. Mason County wants its own delegate in the House of Delegates, and contends it has enough population, but the legal argument relies on a state constitutional provision.
Both the Senate and House redistricting plans are in the same bill that was passed by the Legislature.
Hammer said a decision hadn't been made yet on the motion to intervene. He expects the federal court to make a decision prior to Dec. 13.
To contact staff writer Fanny Seiler use e-mail or call 348-5198.
An Eastern Panhandle group filed a lawsuit Monday asking a federal court to stop the Legislature's plan to redraw West Virginia's 17 Senate districts.
Two lawmakers - Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley - joined nine residents as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The residents include four Democrats, three Republicans and two independents.
The Senate's redistricting plan violates "one man, one vote principles," the lawsuit alleges.
There is more than a 10 percent difference between the least populous and most populous new Senate districts. Federal law mandates that the variation should be less than 10 percent.
Eastern Panhandle residents were upset that the Senate didn't account for growth in their district. Kanawha County, meanwhile, lost population but retained two districts and four senators.
"I'm uncomfortable about the lawsuit, and I regret that we have to have one to try to ensure that fundamental rights are upheld," Unger said.
"I guess it sounds like sour grapes. People may think we didn't get what we wanted, so we filed a lawsuit. But this is all about equal representation. That's what the lawsuit's trying to defend."
Some Eastern Panhandle legislators, including Unger, have said for weeks that they would sue over the plan. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.
The redistricting plan the Legislature passed in September protects the Southern West Virginia districts that most Senate and House leaders represent.
The Senate is comprised of 34 members, two each from 17 senatorial districts.
The ideal size of a senatorial district is 106,374 people.
A 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision determined that the population of the state's smallest district should be within 10 percent of the population of the largest.
Kanawha County's two overlapping districts, the 8th and 17th, are 6 percent under the ideal district size.
The 16th District, which covers Jefferson and most of Berkeley counties, has a population of 111,478, almost 5 percent over the ideal population.
"Kanawha County's senators individually will represent about 50,000 people each. Senator [Herb] Synder and I in a couple of years will be representing 65,000 people each. But Kanawha County will have four votes, and the Eastern Panhandle will have two," Unger said.
The plan also puts part of Berkeley County and all of Morgan County into a Senate district that stretches more than 150 miles southward through Pocahontas County.
House Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said Unger and Overington showed courage in joining a lawsuit that names Secretary of State Joe Manchin, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, and House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, as defendants.
The lawsuit asks the court to throw out the Senate redistricting plan.
"Everyone I've talked to up here is upset about the way they've done the districts. Everybody," Trump said. "This is a bipartisan lawsuit."
Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, said Monday that he would also file a lawsuit in federal court in Charleston today.
Legislators are in Charleston for a special session called by Gov. Bob Wise.
His lawsuit will also cite the greater-than-10 percent population deviation and allege that the Legislature engaged in a "purposeful and systematic plan to protect Kanawha County's four senators," Deem said.
State Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, said Thursday he will challenge the Senate's redistricting plan in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
Deem said he has retained Ritchie County Prosecuting Attorney David G. Hanlon to represent him. Hanlon, a Democrat, served in the state Senate from 1997 to 1980.
Hanlon once brought suit in state court over an earlier congressional redistricting, Deem said. "I feel he's well qualified to represent me in this case, and the people I represent," he said.
Deem contends Kanawha County, which is more than 12,000 below the ideal population for a state Senate district, is too far out of balance to satisfy the U.S. Constitution's one-man-one-vote mandate.
The Senate's statewide redistricting plan has a 10.92 percent deviation from equal representation. Deem has consistently argued that exceeds a 10 percent deviation permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in other cases.
By comparison, the House of Delegates' statewide redistricting plan has a 9.98 percent deviation.
Deem said Kanawha County is going to say it's been one county, and it wasn't fair to cut the county's line to form a senatorial district with an adjoining county.
"They might make that argument, but 16 other counties were cut," he said. "We just feel Kanawha County having four senators is not fair."
Four of the 34 state senators represent Kanawha County and nothing else.
Each of the two Kanawha County districts will have 100,036 people, Deem said, while the new senatorial district he has to represent has 110,713.
Senate Finance Chairman Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, will have the largest district with 111,652 people.
Deem cited a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that said large differences between districts will not be tolerated without justification based on rational policy.
When the state of Virginia redistricted, Deem said, it had hearings and public input. "We had none. It was only done in the Senate. It was only done for the incumbents."
Deem said he has the Wood County Chamber of Commerce's 100 percent support, and he met Thursday with the Wood County Commission, which also supports him.
"I think this is going to be a very important lawsuit," he said.
The Senate plan has also been controversial in the Eastern Panhandle. Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, predicted last week that a business organization from that area of the state would file a lawsuit to challenge it.
Deem said he had talked with Snyder and Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and both of them had met with their chambers of commerce. "I'll file a lawsuit. They'll probably be joined at some point," he said.
Deem said he had e-mailed Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, to tell him "what I'm doing."
Capito Catches a Break
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) can breathe a little easier because the state Legislature OK'd a new Congressional map last Wednesday that makes few changes to current district lines.
The state Senate passed the plan 31-1 after the House had done the same earlier in the week. All three members of the delegation approved of the proposal, although Capito, as the lone Republican, had the most stock in a status quo plan.
Capito's 2nd district needed to lose population after the 2000 census, and there was speculation that the Democratic-controlled state Legislature would add Democratic areas into her already marginal seat.
In the end, Capito gave up Gilmer County to the 1st district and Nicholas County to the 3rd district. Both are Democratic counties that Capito lost in 2000.
Capito called the map approved by the Legislature "the most fair and equitable" of the 10 proposals presented.
Lawmakers rejected a plan being pushed by attorney Jim Humphreys, who lost the open-seat race to Capito last year. Under Humphreys' proposal, Democrats would have carried a 2-to-1 registration advantage in the 2nd district.
The approved plan now heads to the desk of Gov. Bob Wise (D) for his signature. Capito believes Wise will sign it. "I expect him to recognize the overwhelming support" the proposal garnered in the state legislature, said Capito.
The freshman lawmaker is still likely to face a serious challenge as she seeks as second term. Democrats see her as a prime target in a state that hadn't elected a Republican since 1980 prior to her victory.
Capito raised $470,000 in the first six months of this year, which put her among the upper echelon of endangered freshmen. While admitting her re-election will be difficult, she said she is focused on "trying to be a good Congresswoman" and "trying to do the job I was elected to do. "Re-election is not an all-consuming topic for me," she added.
With the tumultuous business of redistricting the House and Senate apparently over for another 10 years, some lawmakers Wednesday called for an independent panel to study the issue.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and House Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Morgan, each said they plan to introduce legislation next session to create an independent commission on redistricting.
In the short-term, Unger said, the panel could study some of the divisive issues from this session, such as the propriety of having two overlapping senatorial districts in Kanawha County.
After the 2010 Census, the panel would prepare redistricting maps based strictly on population changes, not politics. While lawmakers would be free to adjust that map, they would be put on the defensive to justify why they made the changes, Unger said.
"I see no harm that could come from having an independent panel draw a map that's logical, and not driven by incumbency," Trump said.
In the final day of the 10-day special session, the Legislature redrew districts for the state House, state Senate, and the state's three congressional districts.
Kanawha County's 8th and 17 senatorial districts will remain intact, after the Senate rejected an attempt by Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, to include Roane County in one of the districts.
The Senate amended plans for the House and the Senate into one bill, which passed on a 24-8 vote. Deem and Unger voted no, as did Sens. Leonard Anderson, D-Summers; Ed Bowman, D-Hancock; Mark Burnette, D-Greenbrier; Anita Skeens Caldwell, D-Mercer; Jon Blair Hunter, D-Monongalia; and Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.
Unger said he expects one or more Eastern Panhandle groups to challenge the Senate redistricting in court.
The panhandle's 16th Senatorial District is already 5,000 over the ideal population for each district, and is growing by about 2,000 people a year. By contrast, Kanawha County's districts are more than 12,000 below the ideal population.
Besides arguing that the plan strays too far from the one-person-one-vote principle, Unger expects any court challenge to contrast how the House and Senate came up with their plans.
Unlike the House, which had a redistricting committee and held public hearings on its plan, much of the work on the Senate plan was done behind closed doors, he said.
Sen. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said he is confident the plan approved Wednesday would withstand a legal challenge. Before the session, Rowe sent letters to other senators outlining court precedents around the country where legislative districts were upheld even though they were more than 5 percent above or below the ideal population.
Kanawha's districts are nearly 6 percent below ideal.
While not perfect, Rowe said he believes courts would find it fairer to allow the 200,000 people in Kanawha County to keep four senators, rather than lose a senator to Roane County, with a population of 15,000.
"It's making sure that people are not grossly disenfranchised," Rowe said.
The Senate also passed 32-1 and sent to the governor a congressional redistricting plan that makes only minor changes to the congressional districts.
Sen. John Mitchell, D-Kanawha, voted against it, saying he favored an alternative that would have created a 2-to-1 Democratic majority in the 2nd Congressional District, a seat held by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.
"I don't think it was in the best interest of the party. The alternative plan was a much better plan for the Democratic Party," he said.
Also Wednesday, the Legislature:
"We've certainly created a family court system ... that will be more streamlined and effective in handling what I believe is a very difficult area of the law," said House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, D-Kanawha.
The court will replace the current family law master system.
House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, told delegates, "I don't think we have anything to be embarrassed about when we go back home. Our work is done."
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, agreed.
"After the tragedy the nation had, and with emotions running high, and with the redistricting bill, which is one of the personal issues we contend with, I think we've done really well to complete our work in 10 days," he said.
The House of Delegates' 100 members would be elected in the future under a redistricting plan that Majority Leader Rick Staton said Tuesday night wasn't perfect for many of the delegates but met constitutional requirements.
"It's the best plan we can achieve," Staton, D-Wyoming, told his colleagues just before the House voted 73-24 to pass the bill.
"The importance of this bill is fulfilling our legal obligation," he said.
After every 10-year Census, legislative and congressional districts have to be realigned to provide for equal representation required by the U. S. Constitution and court case law. The overall population deviation statewide can't exceed 10 percent.
The House of Delegates and the state Senate each craft their own plans, and neither tampers with the other's plan, but both chambers have to pass each other's. The Senate hasn't voted on the House plan yet.
"I think it's a good plan," House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, said.
It is not much different from what exists, he said. The plan tried to retain communities of interest, he added.
For the most part, multiple delegate districts were retained, as were existing single-member districts.
The House currently has 56 districts, but the new configuration has 58 districts. Two single-member districts were added in the Eastern Panhandle, which has experienced a growth in population.
Kiss chaired the House Redistricting Committee, and he acknowledged that everyone can't always be happy.
"Do I like everything in this plan? No," Staton said in urging the House to pass it. Delegate A. James Manchin, D-Marion, asked colleagues to vote against it because he said: "I'm exercised and incensed over what has been done to Marion County."
White Hall - the only growing area of Marion County - was moved from Marion County to Harrison County to beef up its population numbers so the county could retain its four delegates.
"There are parts of it I'm not crazy about," said Minority Leader Charles Trump IV, R-Morgan.
His county was split into two districts because its 15,000 people fell short of the ideal population of 18,083 for each delegate. Trump will be representing part of Hampshire County, which he said he was excited about doing.
Kanawha County will lose one of its existing 12 delegates under the plan.
That was accomplished by making the 4-member 32nd District into a 3-member district. Since its creation 10 years ago, the district has been represented by four Republicans, except for one two-year term served by a Democrat in 1999-2000.
Trump offered an amendment that was rejected 77-17 by the House to give Eastern Kanawha County a single-member district and to carve out a single-member district in the Clendenin-Elkview area from the current 32nd District.
Republican Delegate Tim Armstead lives in the Elkview area, while the other three Republicans in the 32nd District reside in the Cross Lanes area.
Under Trump's amendment, the existing 31st single-member minority district would have been unchanged from the redistricting plan the House ended up passing. But the 30th District would have been reduced from a seven- to a five-member district, and the 32nd District would have become a three-member district.
Eastern Kanawha County, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, will remain in the 30th District.
Trump argued that Kanawha County had lost population as a whole, but said the population in the 32nd District hadn't declined. "I think single-member districts are better for several reasons," Trump told the House.
Republican Delegate Ron Walters, who represents the 32nd, opposed Trump's amendment. When he ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 1998, Walters said Eastern Kanawha County residents told him they were pleased with their multi-member district. Republican Delegate Rusty Webb, who also is elected from the 32nd, likewise opposed Trump's amendment.
Republicans Armstead, and Delegate Steven Harrison, the fourth delegate from the 32nd, voted for Trump's amendment.
Trump had tried unsuccessfully in the Redistricting Committee on Monday to amend the redistricting plan to make Mason County a single-member district. Portions of Mason County are currently in the 13th and 14th districts, represented by delegates who live in Putnam County. Mason County has about 26,000 people, but not enough to elect a delegate when it's combined with Putnam County.
Another provision in Trump's amendment would have restored 8,000 voters in Putnam County to the 14th District, which the new redistricting plan moved into a district made up of Logan and Lincoln counties and a portion of Boone County.
Because Logan County lost population, the district couldn't sustain four delegates without additional population from an adjoining county.
The 8,000 Putnam County voters include 5,222 people in the town of Hurricane, causing Mayor Raymond Peak to voice his displeasure. "It's not right," Peak said.
McDowell County - which also lost population - became a single-member district with portions of the county being combined with two other delegate districts.
The plan pits Delegates Lacy Wright and Emily Yeager, both D-McDowell, against one another. Wright said the Sandy River District, where he grew up, was moved from the single-member district.
Wright is often at odds with the House leadership.
In other action, the House passed a resolution expressing outrage over the terrorist attacks and commending the recovery workers.
The House passed 92-0 and sent to the Senate a bill to appropriate $1.5 million to the governor's office to pay the National Guard for flood relief duty.
Voting against the redistricting legislation were: Delegates Armstead, Walters, Webb and Harrison, all R-Kanawha; Manchin and Michael Caputo, both D-Marion; Richard Flanigan, D-Mercer; Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia; Sheirl Fletcher, R-Monongalia; Ron Fragale, D-Harrison; Mike Hall, R-Putnam; Charlene Marshall, D-Monongalia; Dale Martin, D-Putnam; Warren McGraw II, D-Raleigh; John Overington, R-Berkeley; Brady Paxton, D-Putnam; Don Perdue, D-Wayne; Paul Prunty, D-Marion; Lisa Smith, R-Putnam; Richard Thompson, D-Wayne; Trump; Mark Wills, D-Mercer; Wright and Yeager.
Delegates Robert Beach, D-Monongalia; Steve Kominar, D-Mingo, and Joe Smith, D-Kanawha, were absent.
To contact staff writer Fanny Seiler, use e-mail or call 348-5198.
State senators are still carrying around 17-inch by 11-inch binders with 27 maps of proposed Senate redistricting plans, but some of them say they're getting close to agreeing on one plan.
"I think it's coming together," Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, said.
Tomblin, D-Logan, hopes his colleagues will be able to settle on one proposal today or Friday, although he added that may just be "wishful thinking."
House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, said he will take his cue from the Senate. If it looks as though senators will finish during this special session, he'll push to get the House finished, he said. Otherwise, he said he'd like to take some more time to work on the House plan.
The Legislature must redraw House, Senate and congressional districts every decade to reflect population changes recorded by the decennial Census.
The Senate proposal most in favor seems to be Plan 14, which was proposed by Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, and Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas. One of its features is that it would keep Kanawha County intact with four senators, instead of splitting it among up to four districts, as some other plans propose.
"That's a good map," Senate Minority Leader Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, said, although he said it still has some problems that need to be worked out. The key problem areas, he said, are around Upshur County and in the area around Monongalia, Marion, Taylor and Preston counties.
Sen. Sarah Minear, R-Tucker, for example, said she would prefer not to lose Taylor County, where she has a lot of strength, but she agreed that Plan 14 was probably the best one submitted. "It comes as close as any to doing it," she said.
The plan would keep Kanawha County together by allowing it to deviate up to 6 percent from the ideal population, although redistricting plans have traditionally permitted districts to vary only 5 percent above or below the ideal population.
If the Senate would stick to the 5 percent standard, Kanawha County would have to be split and share at least one district with a neighboring county, which would likely mean that county would get a senator and Kanawha County would lose one. No other district under Plan 14 would deviate by more than 4 percent from the ideal.
Although the plan would keep Kanawha County intact, it would result in more counties being split by Senate district lines. Currently, district lines divide eight counties, but Plan 14 would divide 11 counties.
Kiss told that House Redistricting Committee at a Wednesday afternoon meeting that he might be ready today to reveal more of his redistricting proposal for the delegates' districts.
Kiss and Delegate Steve Kominar, D-Mingo, have been working on the primary redistricting plan for the House. Other delegates have been suggesting modifications to the Kiss-Kominar plan.
To date, Kiss has publicly revealed only the parts of his plan that cover the Northern and Eastern Panhandles of the state.
Kiss also said he hoped the committee could pass a plan today to redraw the state's three congressional districts. Each chamber traditionally prepares the redistricting plan for its own districts, the House and Senate compromise on how to realign the congressional districts.
Lawmakers say they've looked with interest at West Virginia's latest population figures but will resist the temptation to start tinkering with political boundaries until later this year. "I've got the numbers right here," Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, said Thursday as he pointed to a stack of papers he was holding. "Given the choice of listening to a debate or looking at the numbers, sometimes it's kind of hard not to look at the numbers," he said.
Lawmakers are interested because population shifts determine how state legislative and congressional districts are drawn. The boundaries are redrawn based on information from the decennial census. According to the 2000 census, West Virginia's population is 1,808,344, or 14,867 more than 1990. Overall, 28 of the state's 55 counties posted gains during the last decade, with growth tending to be in rural counties located adjacent to the state's more populated ones. The eight-county Eastern Panhandle as a whole grew by 17.4 percent. An immediate impact of the numbers will be the redrawing of the state's three congressional districts.
Congressional districts must consist of roughly a third of the state's population, or 602,781 people in each district. A district's counties must also be contiguous. Since the 2nd District grew by 38,044 people to 635,965 people, lawmakers will have to readjust the district's boundaries. The district flows from the Ohio River in the west to the Potomac River in the east. The 1st District, which covers the Northern Panhandle and north-central counties, fell by 2,671 people to 595,385. The 3rd District, which covers southern West Virginia, lost 20,506 people to drop to 597,500.
Congressional redistricting was difficult 10 years ago because lawmakers had to reduce the number of districts from four to three. Drafting the districts this year should be easier, and is expected to be the first order of business, lawmakers said. One plan with a radical change has already been proposed. Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, has proposed adjusting the 2nd District by moving the Eastern Panhandle to the 1st District. In exchange, Wood County would be among the counties shifted from the first to the second district.
Doyle said he hasn't heard much talk about the plan. "It's just too busy," Doyle said. "We've got a gray machines bill and an anti-degradation bill to worry about" First District Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., said he's thought about redistricting, "but I don't plan to say much about it until the appropriate time. To be honest, I haven't really heard a lot of conversation yet." Third District Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said "Redistricting is a prerogative of the Legislature. And I respect that role and their wisdom." Second District Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she knows "readjustments have to be made. "I don't want to lose anybody from my district," she said. "But I hope the Legislature will approach it in a fair way and a least disruptive way." State senate and delegate districts must also be divided as evenly as possible, with no more than a 10 percent population difference between districts.
If evenly divided, West Virginia's 17 senatorial districts would each have 106,373 people. A single-member delegate district would serve 18,083 people. Legislative leaders have said the Eastern Panhandle should gain seats in the Legislature and southern West Virginia should lose seats. "The Eastern Panhandle is the place where there has been the most new growth," said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, who represents Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. Unger predicts Morgan County will be put in a new senatorial district because of population gains in Berkeley and Jefferson.
Berkeley led the state with a 28 percent growth between 1990 and 2000. Unger and other lawmakers said they're trying not to think about redistricting until after the session ends on April 14. Also, a computer software program lawmakers will use to redraw political lines won't be ready until mid-April. Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, said he doesn't expect the Legislature to complete the redistricting process until "the summer or sometime up in the fall."
A special session will be held to approve the new boundaries, he said. Tomblin has yet to name senators to a Senate redistricting committee. The House of Delegates has already appointed a 27-member committee, which will be chaired by House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh. Traditionally, the two houses draft their own districts, with little or no interference from the other. "That's the way it's been. The House takes care of the House and the Senate does the same," said House Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming. "Everybody wants to be territorial and everybody wants to keep the districts the same, but it just can't happen."