It's almost certain West Virginia's congressional, state senate and house of delegates districts will be realigned.
To ensure the public has its input, the Senate Restricting Task Force has scheduled a series of meetings that begin in May and has launched a website for state residents to stay abreast of the work ahead.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said in a prepared statement that the task force is seeking information from the public in the state's 17 senatorial districts order to make an informed decision.
The redistricting website, www.legis.state.wv.us/redistricting.cfm, provides information relating to the West Virginia redistricting process in general and will provide updates on Senate Redistricting Task Force meetings.
The informal meetings begin May 4 in Martinsburg, and conclude June 25 in Buckhannon. Other meeting dates and locations are May 11, Wheeling; May 18, Charleston; May 21, Fairmont; May 25, Williamson; June 1, Beckley; June 8, Champmanville; June 11, Huntington; and June 15, Parkersburg. The Fairmont meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Marion County Courthouse, division one courtroom, third floor. An exact location and time for the meeting Buckhannon has not been announced.
Comments are accepted by state senatorial district, and as of Thursday afternoon only one suggestion had been made from a resident of the 4th Senatorial District. The comment asks that lawmakers do away with multi-delegate districts, and implement single delegate districts.
Experts think that the 15th Senatorial District will be realigned because of the significant population shift to the state's Eastern Panhandle. Currently, the 15th District, represented by Sens. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, and Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, encompasses counties from Pocahontas to a portion of Berkeley.
Berkeley experienced the state's highest population increase since 2000 - 28,264 people. Morgan County, also a part of the 15th district, gained 2,598 individuals since the last U.S. Census. It's expected that as a result of the more than 30,000 people who have moved into the Eastern Panhandle, at least one new senator will be added to region for proper representation.
The House of Delegates is still in the process of forming a task force or committee to tackle its side of redistricting. House spokesperson Stacey Ruckle says Speaker Rick Thompson has been meeting with delegates from each region of the state and evaluating how to move forward.
Ruckle added that, currently, there is no estimated time frame for when the House will have its members ready to redraw lines.
Thompson said in a prepared statement that he is learning more about "the nature of the population shifts and representational needs."
"I have not finished surveying the members or even finalized the committee yet, therefore it would be premature to discuss possible details of the process," Thompson says.
"Once the committee is appointed and begins its work, I trust that we will conduct the people's business in the manner and spirit required by state law and the principles of openness and fairness."
The Senate's redistricting committee is a bi-partisan effort, and comprised of at least one senator from each of the state's 17 districts. Senators serving on the redistricting committee are Ron Stollings, D-Boone, Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, John Pat Fanning, D-McDowell, Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, Mike Hall, R-Putnam, Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio, William Laird, D- Fayette, Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier, Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and Bob Williams, D-Taylor.
Contact Carra Higgins by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.