House of Delegates pass the state's first 100-single member district map

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
If the new House of Delegates district map is approved by the Senate and Governor, most of Jackson County will be the 16th District and the remaining part will be the 17th.

West Virginia's House of Delegates voted in favor of its first-ever 100 single-member district map Wednesday. The new districts have changed lines across the state, including Jackson County. 

What does this mean for Jackson County? 

Instead of occupying most of the 12th House District, Jackson County will make up most of the state's new 16th. Del. Steve Westfall, who currently represents the 12th District, delivered on his promise to keep most of the county whole and to "clean up" the lines. 

Prior to the House's vote Wednesday, Westfall said a priority of his was to help the people of Evans and Cottageville access closer voting locations. Cottageville, which was previously in the 13th District is in the new 16th. 

"This is the cleanest Jackson County has been in a good while," Westfall said. 

Every delegate's district has approximately 17,937 people. Westfall's district is now at +4.45% of that at 18,735. 

With the 2011 map, four delegates represent parts of Jackson County: Westfall, Joshua Higginbotham-R, Riley Keaton-R and Jonathan Pinson-R. With the new map, just two delegates will represent the county. 

The special session on redistricting began Monday, and now the bill will be voted on by the senate and delivered to Gov. Jim Justice if approved. 

"The standing rule for years and years is the house does their map, the Senate just puts their stamp of approval on it," Westfall said. "The Senate does their map, we just put our stamp of approval on it too. We don't bother their map. They don't bother our map because they know their districts, we know our districts and then the governor will sign it."

Opposition to the bill 

During the House's final reading of the redistricting bill Wednesday, several Democrats spoke out in opposition to the bill. It was approved with a 79-20 vote with one delegate absent. 

Four Democrats voted in favor of the bill and one Republican voted against it. 

Some in opposition accused the map of gerrymandering districts and begged that the legislature create a committee with citizens on it for the next redistricting cycle.   

The House acknowledged that it changed Del. Caleb Hanna's district to keep him out of an area in Pocahontas County that has a National Alliance headquarters, according to Metro News. National Alliance is a neo-Nazi group that wants to create an "all-white homeland," according to Southern Poverty Law Center

Hanna is one of three Black delegates in the House of Delegates. 

New Congressional Districts

On top of the House of Delegates' bill, the Senate also passed the new Congressional map. The new map, which only has two Congressional Districts, is split between the northern and southern halves of the state.

The new map has Jackson County located in the southern district — in the previous map it was in the second district, which stretched across the middle portion of West Virginia. 

According to the West Virginia Legislature Blog, the Senate approved the map after it was amended to "align with the House of Delegates’ map of choice." The only difference was the districting of Ritchie and Pendleton counties. 

The Senate delayed its discussion on its new districts until Thursday. 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.