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WV Legislators Visit Marlinton To Get Feedback On State Senate Redistricting
(2011-06-07)
(wvmr) - Several West Virginia State Senators have been traveling around the state since early May to talk to citizens about redistricting, a requirement every 10 years following the national census. On June 2nd, their road trip brought them to Marlinton for a sparsely attended but nevertheless informative meeting.

John Unger, who represents the 16th state senatorial district, is the Chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee. He says in looking at state Senate and House of Delegates districts, legislators do a have a bit of wiggle room.

"In the Senatorial and House districts we can have a variation of 10 percent" says Unger. "Not so much to accommodate politicians, but to accommodate communities of interest, things like that."

He says the Senate and House will work on their own plans for redistricting based on the 2010 census numbers before sitting down to work together on the realignment of the state's three congressional districts. They hope to complete all this work by August.

Clark Barnes along with Senator Walt Helmick represents the 15th district that includes Pocahontas. He says because of the census numbers, the counties included in the 15th district will almost certainly change.

"Most likely scenario, and Thornton Cooper I'm sure will give us some comments on that later, we would lose out of the 15th district all parts of Berkley County, Morgan County, Hampshire County, and possibly maybe part of Mineral or Hardy County" says Barnes.

And indeed, Thornton Cooper, a private citizen from South Charleston with a self-professed love of the redistricting process demonstrated that he has put a lot of thought into this.

"I always believe that single member districts are best because power should flow from the people" says Cooper. "One thing that I'm working on is a project that I'm doing myself to divide the state into 100 single member districts."

Cooper says he divided the number of senatorial districts 17 into the total state population and arrived at an average 109,000. Using that number he then came up with a plan for redistributing the senatorial districts. Based on that plan, the 15th district would lose Hardy, Hampshire, and Morgan Counties and parts of Berkley and Upshur Counties. But it would pick up all of Grant County, as well as Barbour and Tucker Counties.

Ten counties in the state are split between two senatorial districts under the current state plan. Cooper says his proposal would reduce that to 7 counties. Nicholas County Commissioner John Miller says he likes Coopers' proposal because it not only keeps more counties intact, but also keeps rural counties together in a given district.

Pocahontas Commission President David Fleming was also present at the meeting. He says constituents have told him they'd like to see single member districts. But he was also struck by comments made by Senator Douglas Facemire at the meeting regarding this subject.

"If you have a single member district with only one delegate representing your county or your area, that isn't necessarily as good in Charleston as having multiple people on your team so to speak" says Fleming. "He says it's teamwork in Charleston that gets things done, and if you have two or three delegates on a given issue to talk to committees about issues important to Pocahontas County, that that's better than one."

Fleming says they will probably also take a look at county precincts and consider whether or not changes are required. He says he's received some requests to combine some of the existing precincts in the county.

To look at Coopers redistricting proposals, go to www.legis.state.wv.us and enter redistricting into the search box. Follow the link to Redistricting; you find Coopers documents under Citizen Submissions.

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