West Virginia lawmakers are diving into the nitty-gritty of redistricting.
The state Senate’s redistricting committee met today, getting organized and laying out a basic schedule for considering district maps.
The redistricting committee for the House of Delegates announced it will kick off with a similar meeting a week from today.
Their work over the next couple of weeks will lead into a special session to consider the redistricting that must be done every 10 years, following the new census.
The big issue on the table is U.S. congressional districts. Because West Virginia lost population over the past decade, it will lose one of its three congressional seats.
How lawmakers decide to split the state into two congressional districts will balance combinations of growth regions or places losing population, local cultures, regional economies — and it will affect which congressional incumbent remains in a relatively safe seat and which two would have to square off against each other in a primary.
There are other redistricting decisions ahead too. The House of Delegates is going from 67 single and multi-member districts to 100 single member districts.
And the Senate may make changes to the boundaries of its current 17 districts, based in part on population flow.
Senator Charles Trump, chairman of the redistricting committee, raised a discussion point today about considering whether each of those 17 districts should remain. He said the only constitutional limitation is the Senate must have at least 12 districts.
“It’s not mandated by the Constitution that the number be set at 17,” he said. “We could have 16 or 15 districts.”
The Senate’s redistricting committee met for about an hour today and plans to get back together starting next Thursday. After that, members expect several days of steady work.
The meetings are being streamed so the public can watch. And because of the covid-19 pandemic, some members may participate virtually. But Senator Trump warned that it would be easier to see maps by being there in person.
The committee established a rule that before it votes or acts on any map, it has to be publicly-available for 24 hours. “We’ll get feedback,” said Trump, R-Morgan. “That’s the idea behind this, to have stuff out there for people to look at, think about and comment on before we take action.”
Trump said the next meeting will be Sept. 30, a week from today. “And at that meeting, I’m hoping we’ll get to start looking at some maps,” Trump said, adding that more meetings will take place the next day, Oct. 1, and into the following week. “I would not be surprised to see this committee meeting on every one of those days as we work through this process.”
He noted that legislative interim meetings are scheduled already for Oct. 10, 11 and 12. “And we’ll meet throughout those. We can expect this committee will meet throughout those interims,” Trump said.
Trump suggested state leaders are anticipating a special session that week for official votes on redistricting and possibly some other matters.
“What I’m saying is, the week before our special session this committee could be working every day,” Trump said. “And we probably need to.”
Trump asked committee members to discuss what order would make sense to consider district maps.
Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said the two districts for Congress would be a fairly limited question compared to the multiple Senate districts. So he proposed considering the congressional districts first.
“Given that we’re only doing two districts congressionally and potentially greater than 12 on the Senate districts — and the technology involved, I would like to see us do congressional first and kind of go through what should be an easier process I would expect,” Tarr said.
“So I would suggest that we do the congressional districts first.”
Where is the legislative redistricting committee at when drawing the lines for redistricting? @CharlesTrumpWV explains where the committee is at to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/OUJy5ZLOXi
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 23, 2021
The House Redistricting Committee will have an organizational meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 30 in the House Chamber.
The agenda will be posted in advance of the meeting, and discussion will include sharing draft maps of proposals for new House districts and new congressional districts.
Video and audio of the meeting will be streamed live at the West Virginia Legislature’s website, http://www.wvlegislature.gov/live.cfm
For questions about the redistricting process, visit https://www.wvlegislature.gov/redistricting.cfm.