US Supreme Court may decide whether to hear redistricting - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

US Supreme Court may decide soon whether to hear redistricting case

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The nation's highest court may decide as early as June 25 whether it will take up a West Virginia case challenging congressional redistricting lines.

West Virginia was assigned three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2010 census.

In a unanimous vote Nov. 3, the Jefferson County Commission decided to seek legal remedy against the congressional redistricting plan that kept the Eastern Panhandle in the same district as communities along the Ohio River.

In its suit, the Jefferson County Commission argued new district boundaries violated the one-person one-vote rule because of an increased amount of population variance, lack of compactness and unnecessarily splitting the Eastern Panhandle between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.

A federal three-judge panel took up the federal lawsuit in a Dec. 28 argument hearing. Judges later deemed the redistricting plan unconstitutional and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals.

In a brief filed March 27 with the nation's highest court, defendants argued the Legislature has certain goals for redistricting, ranging from steering clear of incumbent competitions, keeping counties intact and maintaining the core of the district.

Anthony Majestro, an attorney representing House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson, said there are three paths the redistricting case could take. 

"They could set it for full argument, summarily affirm or summarily reverse it," Majestro said. "They could make a decision on the merits without having a full hearing and a full briefing, but I would never presume what the U.S. Supreme Court would do.

"I believe that ultimately, we should win on the merits. What vehicle we are going to use to get there, we don't know."

Majestro said this redistricting case differs from the earlier Texas case because the Texas case dealt primarily with redistricting in the context of protection against discrimination.

The West Virginia case, like Karcher, centers on how equal population has to be in districts.

So what will this case mean to West Virginians? Majestro said if the court reverses the decision, the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature will govern congressional redistricting.

"If they affirm it, either the Legislature would have to go back and redo the districts or the court would judicially redo the districts," Majestro explained, adding this most likely would take place for the next election.