Jackson County clerk's office finalizes magisterial redistricting plan

Suzette Lowe
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The 2020 census has resulted in several district changes in West Virginia and Jackson County.

Nationally, the number of congressional representatives has been reduced from three to two for the state. Because of population shifts, both the West Virginia State Senate and the House of Delegates have made major changes in district boundaries.

The redistricting done on the state level has impacted voting precincts locally. Jackson County Clerk Cheryl Bright’s office is tasked with making those changes.

“It has certainly been a challenge,” Bright said. “When we first got the House of Delegates redistricting plan, it looked like our changes would flow nicely. When the state Senate’s plan was determined, that presented some issues.”

Jackson County has three magisterial districts which are divided into relatively even population size. With the Senate and House lines changing, this impacted those districts.

“We had to enlarge the northern a bit,” explained Bright. “But they are all still very close in population size.”

County Clerk Cheryl Bright reviews redistricting plan for Jackson County magisterial districts.

The Northern District’s population is 9213, the Western District is 9232 and the Eastern District is 9346.

Magisterial districts cannot split a voting precinct. This is what made mapping a challenge, Bright said.

“At first I thought we’d be able to do the mapping in-house with the help of our county mapper and surveyor, but soon realized we needed a professional company,” she said. “The WVU GIS Technical Center basically drew the lines and gave us precinct options based on the number of registered voters. Decisions then had to be made.”

Two classifications, rural or urban, determine the number of registered voters allowed in each precinct. The range for rural is 200-700, while urban is up to 1,500.

“While I don’t think Jackson County can be considered urban,” said Bright, “the guideline we had to follow was ‘urban’ being the more populated areas of the county. Precinct 17 is the largest with 1,499 voters. State code also allows any precincts that have polling places within one mile of each other to be combined, allowing up to 3,000 voters.”

When all the pieces of the puzzle were finally put in place, the number of precincts went from 31 to 30.

“We blended some to make it more even and some changes had to be made to reflect the new district lines,” Bright said.

When the Ravenswood’s McIntosh building burned, that resulted in a poling place loss. Those voters will now go to Ravenswood High School. A new poling place has been added at the McDonald Building at the county farm because of the changes to that House district. Meadowdale Baptist Church will also be used as a polling place for the newly created Precinct 4 which came about due to new senatorial lines.

Everything must be in place for the upcoming primary election on May 10.

“Locally, the magisterial districts drive the election of county commission, Board of Education and the Democratic and Republic executive committees,” said Bright.

The Board of Education will have four spots up for election this year.

“Normally, there would be three,” Bright said. “But with the unexpired term that came about when Bobbi Farrell resigned, that makes it four positions with one from the Eastern and two each from the Northern and Western.”

Bright presented the proposed plan to the Jackson County Commission at the Jan. 5 meeting, with approval expected at an upcoming meeting.

Registered voters who will see changes in their voting precincts will be contacted Bright said.

“We will be sending out notices of changes to those voters before the election,” she stated. “We don’t want anyone to be concerned about being able to vote.”

The driving force behind any decisions by Bright’s office was convenience of the voters.

“We always tried to keep the interests of the voters at heart,” she said. “We didn’t want them to have to travel far to vote so we tried to make it as easy as possible.”

To contact the county clerk’s office with any questions, call 304-373-2250.