CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)—On Monday, West Virginia received official notice that the state would lose one of its three congressional seats, WV Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a media release.
The state was notified by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cheryl Johnson, that according to the 2020 U.S. Census, the state now only qualifies for two members of the House. This will take effect on January 1, 2022. However, the state’s three Representatives currently in office will remain in the House until January 2023.
“The population increases in other states continue to show their effects here in West Virginia,” Secretary Warner said. “But if the Census Bureau has sufficient data to determine that we’re going to lose a Congressional seat, they should be able to release that data to the states to avoid legal challenges and other delays. With delays that will affect our nation’s elections, the Census Bureau becomes the newest federal entity contributing to decreased confidence in our elections.”
The state will also lose one Electoral College vote in the upcoming 2024 Presidential election. Electoral College votes are determined by the total number of U.S. Senators plus the total number of U.S. House of Representatives members. This means that West Virginia will have four Electoral College votes in 2024.
The release also stated that the U.S. Census Bureau is behind on reporting local Census data and that those delays will cause challenges when the state legislature considers and approves redistricting prior to the 2022 election cycle as well as delay redistricting for legislative positions for the State Senate and the House of Delegates.
“The continued delays in releasing Census data is creating a serious problem for many states like West Virginia,” Warner said. “Delay after delay will make it difficult for the legislature to complete redistricting in time to comply with constitutional deadlines relating to the 2022 election cycle.”
The Census Bureau projects that data will be available in August at the earliest, missing its original early-Spring deadline. This delay has resulted in several states suing the Census Bureau in order to get permission to violate their own state constitutions’ deadlines. Other states have explored the use of other data sources like third-party groups or interim Census data.
Warner says that it would be against the West Virginia constitution to use anything other than official Census data in the redistricting process. He also noted that the delay will affect candidates up and down the ballot as well as voters, saying that polling locations and ballot styles could change.
Some seats, like those in the House of Delegates, require candidates to live in their districts for at least a year, but, without knowing the new district boundaries, they won’t know if they’re eligible until after the deadline passes.
“What is most frustrating is that the Census Bureau has all of the data. We know this because last Thursday, we received formal notice that the state has lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Warner said.