West Virginia Senate backs House of Delegates congressional redistricting plan

State senators approved a congressional redistricting map Wednesday splitting the state in the middle. (Map courtesy of Districtr.org)

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Senate passed a north/south congressional redistricting map Wednesday which should sail through the House of Delegates since the Senate plan is based on a plan adopted by House members Tuesday.

Senate Bill 3033, relating to the composition of congressional districts, passed 30-2 with two members absent. The lone nay votes came from state Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, and state Sen. Mike Caputo, R-Marion.

The plan adopted by the Senate Redistricting Committee on Monday divided the state from three congressional districts to two congressional districts split between a southern and a northern district.

Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, offered an amendment to SB 3033 Wednesday that changed the Senate map to match a map adopted Tuesday by the House Redistricting Committee. The original Senate plan put Ritchie County in the southern district and Pendleton County in the northern district. The House Redistricting Committee plan does the exact opposite, putting Ritchie County in the 1st district and Pendleton County in the 2nd district.

“Ritchie County and Pendleton County are very close in population,” Trump said. “A very important factor in all of this in our decision is equality of population. The United States Constitution requires congressional districts be as equal as practical in population.”

The plan supported by the House and Senate splits the state into a northern and southern congressional district. Counties north of Jackson, Wirt, Calhoun, Gilmer, Braxton, Webster, Pocahontas, and Pendleton counties would be part of the new 1st congressional district.

The congressional redistricting map has a plus/minus 0.09 percent population deviation between the 1st and 2nd districts. The original Senate congressional map has a higher population deviation of plus/minus 0.17 percent. Trump said choosing the House’s plan will make it harder to challenge in court.

“The truth is in West Virginia, you cannot get to true numerical equality unless you’re willing to divide counties,” Trump said. “It’s never been done in West Virginia … having those two districts be as close as they are in population and the very small deviation, I believe, will satisfy any constitutional challenge that may come on a one-man-one-vote equal protection basis.”

The new 1st congressional district includes both the Northern and Eastern panhandles and combines most of current Wheeling Republican David McKinley’s 1st Congressional District with parts of Charles Town Republican Alex Mooney’s 2nd Congressional District. Both would need to primary each other.

Counties south of Wood, Ritchie, Doddridge, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph, Grant, and Hardy counties will become part of the new 2nd congressional district, including all of the current 3rd Congressional District represented by Huntington Republican Carol Miller who would remain unopposed by the other incumbents.

The House of Delegates moved SB 3033 to second reading today. The House version of the bill, HB 302, had two pending amendments which will likely be submitted for SB 3033 this morning.

A decrease in population between the 2010 and 2020 Census reports caused West Virginia to drop down from three congressional districts to two.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com


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