After at least five days of debate behind closed doors, the West Virginia Senate on Tuesday adopted a Senate district map.
The Senate’s 31-2 vote on Senate Bill 3034 that establishes the Senate map after just less than 40 minutes of debate, most of which consisted of Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, explaining each of the 17 districts during the seventh day of a special legislative session.
The vote brought to end almost a week’s worth of false starts toward carrying a Senate map across the legislative goal line and some work being done behind closed doors amid threats from some lawmakers, said Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier.
Trump called the map the Senate ultimately adopted a synthesis of the two maps the chamber considered but failed to adopt on Monday.
“I think this plan meets the constitutional requirements that are before us,” Trump said. “I would dare say I’m quite sure there’s not a single person in this room who would say, ‘This is my perfect plan.’ This is the product of conversations and compromises and hard work in not a long period of time by a great group of people.”
With the Senate’s adoption of a map, the West Virginia House of Delegates will convene at 6 p.m. Wednesday to consider the Senate map, House Communications Director Ann Ali said Tuesday.
The Senate completed work on the House map Monday, and that map, in the form of House Bill 301, is set to be reported back in the House for delegates to formally consider the effective date of the map before it can advance to Gov. Jim Justice for his consideration.
The map the Senate adopted Tuesday is different from the map the Senate Redistricting Committee adopted on Oct. 12. The Senate adopted an amendment to that map in another 31-2 vote before altogether adopting the map.
The Senate reconvened Tuesday evening and made a technical correction to its map to include two U.S. Census blocks with no population that previously had been left out of the bill.
Baldwin thanked members of the Redistricting Committee and staff who traveled throughout the state for 15 hearings throughout the summer to hear ideas and feedback from West Virginians.
All of the Senate Democrats, except Sens. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, and Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, voted in support of the map.
Baldwin said most of the Senate Democrats supported the map because it represented a compromise “among the reasonable members of the Senate.”
“While this map isn’t perfect, it’s reasonable,” Baldwin said. “Above all else, it keeps communities of interest together, in most cases, and that’s vitally important in our state.”
A day after Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said West Virginia and its senators “would’ve been embarrassed” by work on the bill, Baldwin said the redistricting process exposed a “major rift” in the Senate.
“The majority of the West Virginia Senate is governed by common sense,” Baldwin said. “It allows us to work together across lines to serve the people. However, a small faction of the majority party threatened at many junctures to hijack the process.”
Unnamed senators “created and proposed their own” map “in the dead of night and tried to force a vote on it without publishing it for public consideration or taking any comments on it whatsoever,” Baldwin said.
“This did not have to be so difficult,” he said. “Reasonable people can and should sit down together and solve problems.”
Trump had "nothing but compliments" for all 34 members of the Senate Tuesday evening, and he said he did everything in his power to make the Senate redistricting process open and inclusive.
Trump said he had great respect for Baldwin and said any conversations with lawmakers at this point would be useful in making a road map for the next redistricting cycle in 2031.
“In working on this for the last three months, basically, I have tried to do it in a deliberate and fair and even-handed way and to conduct a process that was open and inclusive,” Trump said. “I’m quite sure that every member of this body — and I would welcome it — give me constructive criticism. …I’m sure there are ways that I could have done things better than I did, and I would welcome a conversation about that.”
Points of contention during the last two days centered around Cabell and Kanawha counties, each of which currently contains firmly Democrat districts, as well as counties that surround them, including historical coalfield communities in Lincoln, Logan, Boone, Wayne, Mingo and McDowell counties.
On the map the Senate adopted, Kanawha County contains three Senate districts, and Cabell, for the first time in at least a century, is cut into two districts.
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said multiple times last week that he anticipated Cabell County would be cut up, even though the map the Senate Redistricting Committee adopted on Oct. 12 had kept it intact.
On Monday, Lindsay said he didn’t support the map because of how Kanawha County was split.
“I believe this amendment is a disservice to the people of Kanawha County,” Lindsay said.
After the session Tuesday, Sens. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, and Mike Caputo, D-Marion, released a statement saying they are glad the map had kept Marion and Monongalia counties in a district together, saying they have shared interests.
“There is no perfect map, but we think the historical linkage of these two county areas has worked well in the past and we want to keep a similar shape for our constituents,” the senators said in the statement.
If the Legislature finishes its work on the maps this week, and Justice signs off on them, they would be in effect in time for candidates for legislative office to meet residency requirements for their districts. Residency requirements for those offices in West Virginia require candidates to reside in their districts for one year prior to the general election.
The next general election will take place Nov. 8, 2022.
From the Legislature, the district maps will go to county commissions, which will draw magisterial districts that are used in county commission, board of education and county political committee elections.
County clerks will use those maps to accommodate local voting precincts ahead of the 2022 election cycle.