Debating the Redistricting in Kanawha County

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A debate over redrawing the lines could mean a new look to Kanawha County after 2010 census numbers showed a decrease in population.

Delegate, Senate and Congressional districts throughout the state will be soon be redrawn to help more equally represent citizens.

A public meeting took place at the old Kanawha County Courthouse, with elected officials all ears, allowing neighbors to express their thoughts and concerns.

Legislators will have the final decision, but the debate lies within single versus multiple member districts.

Neighbors question fairness between those living in rural areas opposed to those living in urban communities.

"Why should I have five representatives and they have none?" one neighbor said. "That's not good government and that's not representative government."

A group of area tea-party members joined outside the old courthouse carrying signs, chanting and calling for single member districts in the state.

Currently, West Virginia has 58 districts, but many were rallying for support of 100 districts drawn to have a single representative for each.

Three districts are represented in Kanawha County, with 11 total House of Delegate members. Seven live within just a couple miles of Charleston.

"I see no big sin in living in Charleston," Democratic Delegate Danny Wells said. "I'm not that far from St. Albans. I'm not that far from Montgomery and I've been to all of the places in between."

"With more delegates to draw from, we know that not only ours but other rural communities are being helped," another concerned citizen said. "The 30th district delegates can pool their resources to help fund bigger projects that are needed for rural development."

However, others argue having several delegates in one district only helps the incumbents and fuels political interests.

"Where else can you come in seventh place and still be a winner?" one man said. "This is a travesty of democracy."

"Every year we watch voter turnout go down, go down, go down. And if our politicians are about doing what's right for the state and the people being heard, this is the time to do it, to turn it around," Kanawha County Republican Party Chair Tim Morris said. "It's not a partisan issue at all."

Firing back, some in education and other fields hurting for funding argued having more is actually better.

"To have only one delegate to approach will decrease my chances of finding support of different projects I'm involved with," one teacher said. "It's about choices."

The debate left two sides divided with questions of where to draw the lines.

A redistricting committee has been set up to tackle the redrawing of the lines.

Legislators are expected to be back at the Capitol in early August for a special session focused on redistricting.

Lawmakers say they will focus on getting the maps drawn well before candidates file for the 2012 election cycle.

The state senate districts will also need to be tweaked.

County leaders say more than likely the number of state senators will go from four to three because of the population drop.

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