In 2018, our House of Delegates was divided into 100 single-delegate districts to be implemented after the 2020 census. While that was a giant step forward, the job’s not done. Delegates reserved to themselves the right to choose their voters. Now that needs to change. Here’s the skinny.
A decade ago, Republicans largely supported 100 single-delegate districts, as well as having an independent commission draw district boundaries. That was, of course, when Democrats were in charge. Once Republicans gained control, they enacted the 100 single-delegate districts but rejected a commission approach.
The result is, Democrats who were once against the commission, are for it; and Republicans who were once for it, are against it.
As for you and me, we should be for the commission approach, regardless of the party in charge and insist our delegates support it. Why? Delegates represent you and me, not their parties. Ergo, delegate districts should be drawn to best represent us, not to extend a party advantage.
Now, the argument you’ll get from your delegate is that there’s no one better to draw district lines than those elected from the districts. Balderdash. Since boundaries are currently drawn by politicians for political advantage, it would be best for us to have the losers draw the boundaries, not the winners. They know the districts just as well, and the offsetting political gerrymandering would average out in the people’s favor.
You may also hear that delegates know better how to draw lines than some faceless bureaucrat. More balderdash. A vast majority of members of the House weren’t here during the last redistricting, while members of a commission may serve through multiple redistricting battles.
And since most of our delegates are newbies, they might not understand that this isn’t exclusively a party-line battle. In 2011, the Democratic speaker gave each member, including Republicans, the option of developing their own boundaries. Leadership then only became involved in settling boundary disputes.
While efficient, it wasn’t effective.
Many hard feelings prevailed among members of the same party fighting over desirable voters, resulting in division when tackling real problems.
Solution? Let a commission do the work, then have delegates vote on the result, just like legislative pay is set now.
And while we’re at it, use the Iowa plan, for starters, as it’s often cited as a model.
How does it work? The state’s House and Senate majority and minority leaders appoint one person to an oversight commission. According to Ballotpedia, the members of the commission cannot “hold partisan public office or an office in a political party, and none may be a relative or employee of a federal or state legislator (or the legislature as a whole).”
So, they’re usually one step away from active politics, but knowledgeable.
The four then elect a fifth by majority vote, meaning at least one of the opposite party’s appointees would have to agree. The result is a bipartisan commission familiar with the process, but not having a personal interest in the outcome.
This commission then oversees the technical drawing of districts by Legislative Services, much as is done here. The difference, is the staff works at the commission’s direction, not at the direction of delegates and senators.
A map is then presented to the legislature, which approves or rejects it. The bill can’t be amended, but feedback may be provided. If the legislature rejects the plan, a second proposal is developed that may or may not be like the first. If that one is rejected, a third and final proposal is prepared. If that’s rejected, the legislature may then approve its own map.
Since enactment in 1980, each cycle has seen the adoption of a commission plan. The first proposal was adopted twice (1991, 2011), and the second proposal was adopted in 2001. Only the first plan, in 1981, was adopted on the third proposal.
So, the House in West Virginia should do everyone a favor. Adopt a commission approach. Less hassle for them and better representation for us.