CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — After days of delays, West Virginia's Republican-controlled Senate approved its redistricting map with little debate Tuesday.
The 17-district map passed on a 31-2 vote after the start of the Senate's floor session was pushed back multiple times. One member was absent. It now goes to the House of Delegates.
The vote came after the Senate considered and swapped several versions of the map since the Oct. 11 start of the special session. A third reading that was supposed to happen last Wednesday was delayed into this week.
“This has been an agonizing, in some ways, process. A very interesting process,” said Senate redistricting committee chairman Charles Trump, a Morgan County Republican and one of four GOP senators whose names were attached to the final map.
The approved map splits 11 of the state's 55 counties, down from the current configuration of 13 splintered counties. A map originally approved by the redistrict committee that didn't make the final cut would have split seven counties. Two other proposed maps did not advance during debate Monday.
Trump discussed the makeup of each district in the final map in detail. While the state constitution requires districts to be compact, bounded by county lines and be as equal as possible in population, Trump said geography and population losses forced some counties to be merged into districts with other adjoining counties.
Each district must be as close to 105,513 residents as possible. Five districts would be within a percentage point of that goal. But the approved map would place nearly 111,000 people in the 6th District and only about 100,000 in the adjoining 7th District. Both are in the southern part of the state.
“I'm quite sure that there isn’t a single person in this room that would say this is my perfect plan, this is my dream plan,” Trump said.
Democrat Richard Lindsay, one of two senators to oppose the final map, objected to his home county of Kanawha being split into three districts from the current two. He was the only other senator to discuss the 17-district configuration.
Most of Kanawha County would form the 17th District with a portion of Putnam County. Other parts of Kanawha County are added to the coalfield counties of Boone, Lincoln and Logan to form the new 7th District.
The most unusually shaped district of all, the 8th District, resembles a backhoe and includes the city of Charleston and other slivers of Kanawha County in one corner. The district also has the entire rural counties of Clay and Roane and parts of Jackson and Putnam counties.
“I believe this amendment is a disservice to the people of Kanawha County,” Lindsay said.
Senate Republicans outnumber Democrats 23-11 in a state that Donald Trump carried by large margins in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Last February, registered GOP voters in the state overtook Democrats for the first time since 1932.
As of July, the latest month available, 38.2% of registered voters were Republicans, 35.2% were Democrats and 22.3% had no party affiliation, according to the secretary of state’s office. However, 23 of the state’s 55 counties have more registered Democrats than Republicans.