WINFIELD, W.Va. — West Virginia legislators on Tuesday held the first public hearing about redistricting, in which lawmakers heard from residents about their concerns regarding the current districts.
The hearing at the Putnam County Judicial Building marked the start of a series of in-person hearings scheduled to take place across the state. The Joint Committee on Redistricting is responsible for using U.S. Census data for establishing new districts for state and federal offices.
While Tuesday’s event only attracted 10 speakers, the group was adamant about their opposition toward dividing the county into several districts.
“Pretty much, everybody said the same thing,” Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson, said. “That Putnam County was really gerrymandered up and is really cut up. You’ve got delegates representing it that live in Lincoln County and Logan County, and they want more representation.”
Putnam County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Ben Barkey said lawmakers should consider districts to create as many districts with one delegate per county as possible.
“I think it’s been a huge problem,” he said. “Candidates from outside of the county have to represent our county. Many of our folks don’t know who their representative is.”
Lawmakers are still waiting for U.S. Census data to draw new legislative districts. Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, said the committee will be rushing to ensure the new map is ready at least one year before the 2022 election.
“It’s going to be a challenge for anyone that’s wanting to run for office,” he added. “They got to make a quick decision on whether they want to relocate somewhere to be in that district, or whether they are going to run or not.”
The next public hearing will take place Thursday at the Chief Logan Lodge Hotel Conference Center in Logan. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.