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Legislators returning to adjust districts

August 11, 2011
By Carra Higgins and Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writers ( and , The Inter-Mountain

Five days after the West Virginia Legislature approved the state's new House of Delegates, Senate and Congressional districts, members will be heading back to Charleston to correct errors with the House of Delegates lines. Although the districts may not undergo vast changes, some are hoping otherwise.

Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Wednesday he would need to veto the bill that aligned the state's soon-to-be 67 delegate districts.

The Associated Press reports that House Speaker Rick Thompson said that he agrees with Tomblin's decision to veto the legislation.

"After careful review of the 450-page legislation and accompanying map, we have found a few portions - those that were amended during the floor session - in which the census blocks were not properly adjusted," Thompson said in a prepared statement.

Delegate Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said Wednesday evening that she had just been informed about the upcoming special session and flaws. She explained that because the legislation was amended late, the meticulous checking of the census blocks likely did not happen as it did with the original bill.

Poling added that she doesn't expect major re-drawing of the house districts, and thinks that it is regrettable that a special session is being called to approve only the House of Delegates districts.

Tomblin had already been called upon to veto the bill by supporters of single-member districts for all 100 seats. Next week's do-over would again allow those advocates to press their case.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce released a statement from its president, Steve Roberts, Wednesday "applauding" Tomblin's veto announcement.

"House Democratic leaders rushed through a bill designed to protect incumbents," Roberts said. "In their haste, numerous mistakes were made. The House leaders now need to come back to Charleston, open up the process to public input, and do their job correctly. Anything less will be disservice to the future of West Virginia."

The members of the Tucker County Commission think they were blindsided by the delegate redistricting. Commissioner Mike Rosenau is asking constituents to call, write or email their representatives in the Legislature to explain their thoughts about the delegate redistricting in Tucker County.

Rosenau said commissioners found out about the redistricting map from a resident of Charleston instead of representatives of Tucker County. The information was received about 15 minutes before the bill was put to a vote, which prompted commissioners to email and call their members of the Legislature, he added.

When commissioners received a response they were told they should be happy because two delegates would be representing Tucker County instead of one, Rosenau explained. Rosenau said he thinks that rather than giving residents of Tucker County an extra vote, it actually split the vote and that their concerns are not going to be represented.

A portion of Tucker County will be lumped in with Barbour County because 2,000 residents were needed to reach the 18,000 to complete a district; but 5,000 people were needed to comprise another district, which encompasses a portion of southern Preston County. Rosenau says he thinks Tucker County's voting power was split despite being told that the county would have two representatives in the House of Delegates.

Commissioners Lowell Moore and Tom Carr agreed that those dividing the districts should be unbiased, and should contain some lay-people, not just delegates.

As officials continue to check for additional errors with the House plan, they are also reviewing the redistricting bills for the state Senate and the three congressional districts.



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