West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, established a subcommittee Wednesday to rework a bill that would create an independent commission to draw voter redistricting lines following the decennial census.
In previous years, legislators have used updated information from the census to redraw their own district lines. House Bill 2383, sponsored by Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, puts together an independent redistricting commission, to bar politicians from picking and choosing their voters.
However, the text of the bill does not spell out any specifics regarding who would serve on this commission, how they would be appointed or who — if anyone — would pay for it.
It does state that the commission must ignore all demographic information besides population. That includes race, voter registration, past electoral behavior, party affiliation and other electioneering indicators.
To formulate the bill, Shott appointed Delegates Overington, Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, and Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell.
According to committee counsel, the bill — based on a similar idea used in Iowa — likely also would require a constitutional amendment.
The legislation would compose the second fundamental change to state elections the committee has addressed this session. On Monday, the panel sent a bill to the House floor that would compel whatever body that handles redistricting to divide the state into 100 single-member districts, as opposed to the current smorgasbord of single-, double-, triple-, quadruple- and quintuple-member districts.
At the time, Pushkin proposed an amendment that would have called for an independent commission to handle redistricting to the single-member district bill. However, the committee rejected the amendment, generally forming a consensus to opt for the separate, more specific bill entirely.
While a bill’s path from a subcommittee to becoming law is a long one, House Communications Director Jared Hunt said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, is optimistic about its chances.