West Virginia redistricting resulted in simple swap

CHARLESTON (AP) – Redistricting in West Virginia that followed the 2010 Census was an extensive process that ultimately resulted in one simple swap – moving Mason County from the 2nd to the 3rd congressional district.

The 2010 Census required states to ensure their legislative and congressional districts provided equal representation. Growth in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and the Morgantown area contrasted with declining population in the southern coalfields and the Northern Panhandle.

A Senate task force and a House of Delegates committee oversaw the redistricting process. Each chamber proposed a plan for its own districts and jointly crafted a map for the state’s three U.S. House districts. Both chambers of the state Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

It took two special sessions of the Legislature to settle the issue.

Eventually, Mason County was moved from the congressional district represented by Republican Shelley Moore Capito to the southernmost district under Democrat Nick Rahall. A more ambitious draft plan that switched 19 counties among the three congressional districts was rejected.

In the state House of Delegates, the Eastern Panhandle and Morgantown areas gained seats. Public calls for 100 single-district seats in the House were ignored.

While there was concern among Republican Party leaders in 2010 that redistricting would tinker with the GOP’s growing presence in the state’s U.S. House membership, “it seems to be a truce,” said Robert Rupp, a political science professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “They avoided drawing the lines dramatically.”

Rupp isn’t expecting the same after 2020.

“I’m sure next time everything’s going to break loose,” he said.

A federal judge last year dismissed what remained of a lawsuit brought by the Jefferson County Commission challenging the state’s redrawn congressional districts.

The dismissal followed a September 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, rejecting arguments that small population variations among the new districts violated the U.S. Constitution.