Parties ask state Supreme Court to hear remaining redistricting - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Parties ask state Supreme Court to hear remaining redistricting claim

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After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan constitutional, parties are now asking a federal district court to certify a question to the state Supreme Court about numerical equality and compactness of the districts.

West Virginia was assigned three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2010 census. However, some people questioned how those congressional districts were designed, saying the 2nd Congressional in particular was awkwardly designed because it stretches across the state from Jackson County to Jefferson County.

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.

The Sept. 25 U.S. Supreme Court opinion reversed the decision of a three-judge federal panel, which had determined the plan was unconstitutional.  

"Because the District Court misapplied the standard for evaluating such challenges set out in Karcher v. Daggett … and failed to afford appropriate deference to West Virginia's reasonable exercise of its political judgment, we reverse," the opinion states.

As part of that order, the U.S. Supreme Court left it up to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to determine if the district is compact and numerically equal.

In his response to the federal court, intervening plaintiff Thornton Cooper said the congressional redistricting  plan is not compact.

Cooper said he has designed several new congressional redistricting plans that he thinks comply with the compactness requirement.

He also said the plans do not split counties between congressional districts and they have a lower population variance than the current plan.

Cooper did not express an opinion about numerical equivalence.

In their Dec. 3 response, state officials said these claims are not under federal law and therefore should proceed under state court proceedings.

State officials said if the court does not dismiss the remaining allegation, the federal court should certify a question to the West Virginia Supreme Court asking whether S.B. 1008 meets requirements of the state constitution.

Plaintiffs also asked the federal court to certify this question to the state Supreme Court.