County Commissioners address redistricting process


BUCKHANNON — Early Wednesday morning, the Upshur County Commission held a special meeting to open up discussion around prospective Magisterial District and Precinct changes. The changes are being weighed due to West Virginia Legislature’s 2021 redistricting process, which resulted in new political boundaries for Congressional, State Senate, and House of Delegate Districts.

On October 22, 2021, Governor Jim Justice signed the state’s Congressional (SB 3033), State Senate (SB 3034), and House of Delegates (HB 301) districts into law. The changes implemented by these bills were prompted by a decline in the state’s population and will drop West Virginia to just two members in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as reshuffle Senate and House districts on the state level. The new alignment set forth in the bills signed by Governor Justice will also eliminate multi-member districts throughout the state. Since the last Census in 2010, West Virginia has lost more than 60,000 residents, which amounts to a 3.2% loss in total population. As a result, West Virginia lost one of its seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, taking our state from three seats to two. At one time, West Virginia had as many as six members in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The loss of one of the state’s seats due to U.S. Census reapportionment in the House, paired along with the elimination of multi-member districts, required the state to redistrict and for County Commissions to act to conform to these statewide changes. As West Virginia will only have two congressional seats, new boundaries for every State Senate and Delegate District will have to be set. The special session Wednesday was to open preliminary discussions around and set the agenda for redistricting.

On an issue that impacts the community at a local level, it is important to stay informed and stay engaged. It is key to monitor West Virginia’s Congressional and state legislative lines in order for voters to be aware of the new districts, know who will be representing them, and to identify their precinct locations for the upcoming 2022 elections after the beginning of next year. Public notices of proposed local changes will be communicated using a combination of posted meeting notices and Class-II-0 legal advertisements aimed towards inviting community engagement in the redistricting process. Commissioners will have until the January 22, 2022 deadline to update local precinct and magisterial boundaries ahead of the May 10, 2022 Primary Election. All voters whose precincts or polling places are impacted by this change will be mailed an updated Voter Registration card before the 2022 primary. Voters can also check their registration and polling location at www.GoVoteWV.com.

The Upshur County Commission will have some level of autonomy in their efforts to redistrict appropriately. According to state law, the state’s House of Delegates must be apportioned into 100 single-member districts. In prior years, the House comprised 67 districts in which most members were elected from multi-member districts. State law further provides that state legislative districts be as close to equal in population as possible. The West Virginia Constitution further states that Congressional Districts must be formed of contiguous counties, and that they be compact; state Senate districts must be compact, contiguous, and bounded by county lines where doing so is not otherwise unlawful. The state courts have given the legislature a great deal of flexibility to gauge compactness for itself and to cross county lines for state Senate districts in order to achieve equal population and have emphasized that there is no similar county-line mandate for state Delegate districts.

At the meeting, County Clerk Carol Smith summed things up by stating, “There are several areas in Upshur County in which the new lines for House of Representative districts split a precinct with our magisterial lines. This requires us to take action in order to move magisterial lines for these in our county. We could have to redraw and redistrict around 14 separate areas due to these conflicts.” The Upshur County Commission will meet again Thursday, November 18, to take action in redrawing districts to comply with the state mandated changes.

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