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Redistricting committee holds forum in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Committee on Redistricting continued its series of hearings on new legislative districts with a forum Thursday in Morgantown.

The event at the Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center happened the same day the U.S. Census Bureau released data related to the nationwide redistricting effort. According to agency data, West Virginia will lose one U.S. House of Representative district following a 3.2% decline in population since the 2010 census. The state Legislature previously approved going from 67 House of Delegates districts with multi-member areas to 100 single-member districts.

Former Clarksburg Mayor Ryan Kennedy spoke in favor of single-member districts.

“Having single-member districts, you have a smaller district that is more compact, and the person that represents you actually lives in your area,” he said. “They would know your problems because they’re your neighbor.”

The redistricting process will happen as Republicans control the state executive branch and have supermajorities in both legislative chambers. Sarah Barnes, the co-president of the Monongalia County League of Women Voters, argued for installing a nonpartisan commission to draw new legislative maps.

“In the absence of such a commission, we expect the redistricting committee to adhere to the provisions in our state constitution requiring districts to be compact, contiguous and considerate of the boundaries of our counties, neighborhoods and communities,” she said.

The Joint Committee on Redistricting will continue holding events through mid-September. Each event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.:

— Aug. 17; Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office (510 S. Raleigh St., Martinsburg, WV 25401).
— Aug. 18; Keyser VFD Station 2 (1550 Cornell St., Keyser WV 26726).
— Aug. 24; Independence Hall (1528 Market St., Wheeling, WV 26003).
— Aug. 26; Cabell County Courthouse (750 5th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701).
— Sept. 9; The Culture Center, Building 9, Capitol Complex (1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25305).
— Sept. 16; Judge Donald F. Black Courthouse Annex (317 Market St, Parkersburg, WV 26101).

Three virtual public hearings will take place at times yet to be announced.

The state Legislature will approve the new districts during a special legislative session this fall.

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