MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A member of the Morgantown Wards and Boundaries Commission is filing a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office, citing ‘gross inequities’ between the City’s wards that must be resolved before the next municipal election.
Roger Banks, now in his sixth year with the commission, mailed the complaint Tuesday.
The complaint names the entire City Council of Morgantown.
The commission previously recommended, by a 4-1 vote, to make no adjustment to the current ward boundaries due to delays in obtaining the necessary census and registered voter data in a timely manner. Banks was the lone dissenter, suggesting that there was still time to properly adjust boundaries in time for the April 2019 election.
The City of Morgantown holds municipal elections every two years.
According to the commission report dated Oct. 31, 2018, the data indicates there is significant need for ward adjustments. It further indicates there is need for direction from City Council on how the commission can acquire the funding to meet with experts in software, GIS systems, and census data.
According to Banks’ complaint, the data indicates two wards in particular are well outside the range of ‘deviation,’ typically defined as the difference in registered voters from ward to ward.
However, Banks added that if you look at the 2010 Census numbers, the differences in the data are “grossly disproportionate.” In his complaint, the population data indicates that every ward in the City of Morgantown is suffering from far greater disproportionate representation.
The commission’s goal is to bring registered voters in each of Morgantown’s seven wards as close as possible — taking into account overall residents and registered voters. Deviation — or the difference in voter count between wards — is generally acceptable within 10 percent. Third Ward has a deviation of 13 percent — suggesting they need to subtract voters from the ward to provide greater equality in representation. Sixth Ward has a deviation of -11.2 percent, suggesting the ward needs to add voters to improve equality and voter representation.
Banks later added in a conversation with WAJR: “We need to be equal in both census and registered voters by Charter. As you see, both graphs indicate disaprities. The census graph is the most important by standard practice. And, as you see, the census ward graph is grossly disproportionate. All wards are three or four times over 10 percent deviation.”
Sixth Ward incorporates parts of Sabraton and the area near the Morgantown Municipal Airport. Third Ward includes parts of downtown Morgantown, West Virginia University’s main campus, and the Wiles-Hill neighborhood.
In his dissent from the commission’s October recommendation of no changes, Banks states the following:
“As a Ward and Boundaries Commissioner, voting for no changes given the inequities would give support to holding a unfair, inequitable, and unrepresentative municipal election. This would go against my oath as a Commissioner, as I understand.”
The complaint is dated Dec. 4. State offices were closed Wednesday by proclamation of Gov. Jim Justice as a day of mourning following the death of George H.W. Bush, who passed away last Friday.
Mike Queen, a representative from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, said the office does not comment on or acknowledge the existance of complaints.
Queen added: “Complaints regarding the boundaries of municipal precincts would not be an issue for the Secretary of State’s Office or the County Clerk. That would be dictated by the City’s Charter.”
“The State Code clearly gives the legal responsibility to establish that to municipalities.”
Noting that city and state offices were closed, a representative from the City of Morgantown said the city had not seen the complaint, making it hard for them to comment.
A full response is expected later this week.